Princess joins front line battle in hospital after three-day training course

Princess Sofia of Sweden has undergone an intensive three-day training course so that she can work on her country’s coronavirus wards.

The princess, 35, started work yesterday at the Sophiahemmet Hospital after vowing to help the country fight the deadly disease. She was pictured in scrubs next to a few other members of staff at the facility before starting her shift.

She underwent training at the Sophiahemmet University College in Stockholm, where she is honorary chair member. Princess Sofia was a model before marrying Prince Carl Philip, son of King Carl Gustaf and fourth in line to the throne, in 2015.

Sweden’s softer approach to containing the new coronavirus was already an outlier in Europe and is coming under even more scrutiny as death rates leap ahead of its Nordic neighbours.

As of Wednesday, a total of 1,203 people had died from nearly 12,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 – a far higher rate than Finland, Denmark and Norway, which have all instituted more restrictive containment measures.

Bo Lundback, professor of epidemiology at the University of Gothenburg, said: ‘The authorities and the government stupidly did not believe that the epidemic would reach Sweden at all.’

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In contrast to Nordic neighbours and most of Europe, Sweden has not imposed extraordinary lockdown orders.

Instead, it has called for citizens to take responsibility and follow social distancing guidelines along with stronger measures such as banning gatherings of more than 50 people and halting visits to retirement homes.

Despite international attention and domestic debate, the government has maintained its course, taking its cue from its expert authority, the Public Health Agency.

Lundback and 21 other researchers urged the government to reconsider and institute ‘rapid and radical measures’ in a joint article in Dagens Nyheter newspaper on Tuesday.

Lundback said: ‘Sweden was poorly or even not at all prepared.’

Sweden’s parliament on Thursday passed a new law granting the government temporary powers to quickly adopt measures aimed at curbing the spread of the new coronavirus without prior parliamentary approval.

The new law grants the Social Democrat-led government the ability to temporarily close businesses, limit public gatherings or shut down ports and airports, as well as a number of other measures.

‘It is important that the government has access to more tools in the fight against the coronavirus if they should prove necessary,’ Social Democrat MP Kristina Nilsson told parliament during a Thursday debate.

After objections from opposition parties, the bill was amended so that if the government decides to enforce any measure quickly without going through parliament, lawmakers can vote to rescind the measure if they deem it unnecessary.

The new powers come into force on April 18 and last until the end of June.

The government is still prohibited from adopting measures that curtail rights guaranteed by the country’s constitution, meaning it would still need to go through parliament to issue the type of curfews that have been imposed elsewhere in Europe.

However, so far the government has not pursued such measures, opting for a softer approach and calling for citizens to take responsibility to follow social distancing guidelines.

The government has banned gatherings of more than 50 people and barred visits to nursing homes.

On Thursday, the government also decided on a month-long extension of a ban on non-necessary travel to the country from outside the EU, in line with a joint EU decision.

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