How is school lunch in Sweden

Sweden's school course in the corona pandemic : "There are some people who think we were right about that"

During the coronavirus crisis, the government has always tried to dispel the impression of a “Swedish special route”. It is not true that everything is different in the country with around 10.2 million inhabitants in northern Europe, said Foreign Minister Ann Linde on April 20: "It is a myth that life in Sweden goes on as usual."

Apart from the fact that shops and restaurants stayed open all the time, one thing was definitely different in the state on the northern edge of the EU: For students up to grade 9, school operations continued until the start of the summer holidays on June 10th, only for them there was distance learning for older pupils and students. The day care centers were also open.

After more than eight weeks of vacation, school and day-care life began again last Wednesday for around 1.7 million Swedish children. And the high school students among them are also returning to the classrooms.

“What was discussed the most and what we did differently in Sweden was not to close schools. In the meantime there are some people who think that we were right, ”said Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven in an interview with the daily newspaper“ Dagens Nyheter ”.

The Swedish decision-makers in the pandemic, headed by the state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell from the national health authority (FHM), had considered closing the schools. Ultimately, they decided against it. A course that was and is quite controversial in the country - especially because Sweden has developed into a hotspot of the pandemic and has so far reported 5810 Covid-19 deaths. That is 568 per million inhabitants, almost as many as Italy (586).

Sweden's epidemiologist Tegnell is against lockdown

The FHM and the government are otherwise voluntary, calling on citizens to keep their distance, minimize social contacts, protect the elderly in particular, observe hygiene measures, stay at home in the event of the slightest symptoms of illness and, if possible, generally work in the home office. Meetings of more than 50 people have been banned, and since April 1 there has been a ban on visiting old people's and nursing homes. There is still no mask requirement.

The advantages and disadvantages of various measures would have to be weighed against each other, said Tegnell. “One must not forget that a lockdown can also have health consequences.” Isolation and quarantine could cause long-term damage to body and mind. And this particularly affects children.

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The decision to keep schools open also had a clear benefit for families - and society. Both parents could continue to work - and it is more common for mother and father to work full-time in Sweden than in other EU countries. Tegnell emphasized again and again how important this was especially for the health system to continue to function. In addition, everyday life was preserved for children; they continued to receive school lunches that were free in Sweden. A factor that should not be neglected, especially for families from low-income groups.

The first studies on the spread of the coronavirus in children in Sweden are now also available. For one, scientists from the Karolinska Institute Medical School near Stockholm examined cases of children who were treated for Covid 19 disease in the capital region. In total, there were 63 cases there in the investigation period from March 13 to May 14.

The study said the results indicated a low incidence of serious illnesses due to Covid-19 in Swedish children, "although day-care centers and elementary schools remained open". This suggests that the Swedish strategy did not make the pandemic worse for children in Sweden when compared to lockdown countries. "

Two studies on corona in children in Sweden

However, the effects of the open school strategy on the overall transmission of Sars-CoV-2 within Swedish society are unknown. The potential degree of transmission of Covid-19 from children to adults and its consequences for hospital stays and adult deaths would be beyond the scope of the study, according to the scientists.

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Another study compared cases of infection among children in lockdown Finland and Sweden. In both countries, according to a report on SFGate.com, there were no measurable differences in the number or accumulation of coronavirus cases among school children aged up to 19 during the period under review.

Infection doctor sees no increased risk for teachers

Hanna Nohynek, chief physician of the Infectious Diseases Department of the Finnish Health Authority and co-author of the study, which was commissioned by the two national health authorities, rates the results as follows: "It currently looks like children are much less likely to develop Covid-19 and become less severely ill . And their role in the transmission of the lung disease to other people seems to be considerably smaller than, for example, in diseases such as influenza. ”The study comes to the conclusion that the negative effects of school closings should be rated higher than the positive effects took such a measure in containing the coronavirus.

This is supported by the fact that Finnish children went back to school in May after two months of distance learning. And contrary to what skeptics claim, there has not been an increase but a further decrease in national infection rates since then.

There was also no evidence of an increased risk for teachers during the study period. However, Nohynek also warns that it is far too early for a final judgment. Much more data would be needed to "be able to conclusively assess the role of children in the transmission of Covid-19".

Similar experiences in Denmark and Norway

Other countries in Northern Europe have had similar experiences with their schools. Iceland, Denmark and Norway closed the schools, but gradually reopened them. The fear that this could trigger a new wave of infections has not been confirmed in any of the countries. The consequence: distance rules or teaching in small groups have been repealed.

But there are also other studies - a group of 26 researchers, including epidemiologists, virologists and pulmonologists, referred to this last weekend in a debate in the newspaper “Dagens Nyheter” (DN) shortly before school started. Many of the signatories criticize the course of the FHM since the beginning of the pandemic.

Tegnell critics cite figures from Sweden

They criticized in the contribution that the FHM assumes that children are less seriously ill and that they are less infectious. You accuse the authority of ignoring investigations from South Korea and the USA, for example, which paint a different picture. As an example, they cite Israel, which decided to lockdown early on, then reopened schools along with other parts of society on May 17th. “Ten days later, the number of new infections in Jerusalem skyrocketed. And 41 percent of those who tested positive were 10 to 19 year olds, ”write the researchers.

And the Tegnell critics refer to figures from their own country. In Sweden, the number of new infections decreased ten days after the start of the holiday when the children were out of school - from a seven-day average of 1299 to 395 cases on July 14.

They also cite data that should show that children can very well become seriously ill. Most of them actually had only mild symptoms, but 147 would have had to be treated in clinics, 32 of them in intensive care, one child had died. In addition, the long-term consequences of Covid 19 diseases are not known. The unrest that exists in the country before school starts is justified.

“We don't want to close schools,” says the education minister

There are a few recommendations for school operations from Prime Minister Stefan Löfven's red-green minority government, which Education Minister Anna Ekström pointed out again on Wednesday - such as restructuring classrooms, keeping distance in canteens and libraries or staggered start and break times . If the situation worsens significantly, distance learning can be ordered again for high schools. “The government is ready to take action, but we don't want to close schools,” said Ekström.

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In their article, however, the scientists called for mandatory measures for all schools. If nothing is done by a higher authority to improve the situation in schools, parents should protect their own and other children and show consideration for school staff: “You do that by making sure that my child wears a face mask . "

Tegnell railed against the requirement to wear a mask

Tegnell said on the subject of mask requirements in general that he would not recommend them until there was evidence that they were effective. “The result that could be achieved with the masks is astonishingly weak, even though so many people around the world are wearing them.” Countries such as Spain and Belgium have had their populations wear masks - but the number of infections has risen. "To believe that masks can solve our problem is in any case very dangerous," he told the "image" on August 10th. Last week he told the DN newspaper: "Teachers are no more ill than other professional groups."

Tegnell has since admitted several times that an important part of the Swedish strategy - to protect the elderly in particular - has failed dramatically. According to official information, almost 80 percent of the previous Covid-19 deaths were in need of care. “Our major failure was in the area of ​​long-term and elderly care. The regional offices should have been better prepared, then there would have been fewer deaths, ”he told the“ image ”.

One point that Tegnell was repeatedly accused of was that he wanted to achieve so-called herd immunity in Sweden as soon as possible. Tegnell always replied to this accusation that this is not the strategy of the FHM authority. It is about keeping the number of infected people so low that the health system is not overloaded.

Emails from Tegnell raise questions

In contrast, Tegnell's emails to his Finnish colleague Mika Salminen, on which international media such as the British "Guardian" have just reported, are among others. Accordingly, Tegnell discussed the concept in the spring. On March 14th, Tegnell wrote to Salminen: "One point that speaks in favor of leaving schools open would be to achieve herd immunity more quickly."

[Read here why Sweden is convinced of its path.]

However, this would contradict the statement that children did not play a major role in the spread of the virus ‘. "My comment referred to a possible effect, not an expected one," said Tegnell, according to the newspaper, to the Swedish journalist Emanuel Karsten, who had published the mails. This was part of the assessment of the appropriateness of the measure. "Keeping schools open to gain immunity was therefore never relevant," wrote Tegnell accordingly.

The number of new infections is falling in Sweden

Whether, and if so, how the infection rate changes when school starts, will not only be followed closely in Sweden. The fact is that the number of new infections there has been falling significantly since the beginning of June. 192 new cases were reported Wednesday. For comparison: In Germany, the RKI registered 1510.

Hundreds of new positive tests are currently being added every day. The total number of infected people is around 85,220. The number of Covid-19 deaths has fallen to a few per day. There are significantly fewer coronavirus patients in intensive care units today.

However, the FHM observed a slight increase in the number of infections, especially in Stockholm, as the head of the authority, Johan Carlson, said on Tuesday. It is too early to say whether it will be a turnaround again. "But it is absolutely not unlikely that it is a holiday effect."

Background information on the coronavirus:

Tegnell had previously expressed concern that younger people could be a new engine in the pandemic. Data from Sweden shows that in the week leading up to August 9, 40 percent of those infected are 20 to 29 years old. And infections are also increasing in teenagers, as Tegnell said. "There are several signs that this group is no longer following the recommendations so consistently," quoted the newspaper DN Tegnell.

It is too early to take stock of the coronavirus crisis

Its course was heavily criticized by many in Germany, and the collapse of the Swedish health system was predicted. It did not come to that - and since the country in the north has also built up capacities and gained experience, it is unlikely that it will come to that.

On Twitter, a user wrote: "If you laugh last, you laugh in Sweden." But it is certainly far too early to take stock. The fact is that Sweden's economy has also been hit, but currently not as badly as that of the entire eurozone.

In the meantime, it has been confirmed from all sides in this country that a second lockdown cannot be survived and must be prevented by all means. The question that is now being asked more and more frequently is: How much Sweden is there in the current German way?

The Hamburg FDP politician and professor at the International School of Management (ISM) there, Andreas Moring, wrote in an article for the debate magazine “The European”: “Of exactly these experiences, that is, the experiences of, irresponsible and dangerous' course in Sweden, now all of Europe and Germany seems to benefit. And imitates the Scandinavians. Of course without calling it that (...). "

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