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Swedish parliament committee says government failed in pandemic handling

Swedish parliament committee says government failed in pandemic handling
June 3, 2021

(Reuters) - Sweden's centre-left, minority government failed in several aspects of its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, parliament's constitutional committee said on Thursday.

The government was slow to put in place a testing and tracing system,failed to protect of the elderly and there was a lack of clear lines of responsibility between national and local authorities, the committee said. It did not comment on Sweden's controversial no-lockdown strategy.

"It is ... clear that Sweden was not sufficiently prepared before (the pandemic) and we can learn from many of the underlying failures that have been identified," Hans Ekstrom, deputy chairman of the committee and a Social Democrat lawmaker, told a hearing.

Sweden has been an outlier in the fight against the pandemic and has opted against lockdowns, instead relying on mostly voluntary measures. The death toll has been higher than that among its Nordic neighbours, but lower than in most European countries that opted for lockdowns.

The committee said that the government should have been quicker to set up a framework for testing and tracing, quicker to draw up a law giving it wider powers to deal with the crisis and quicker to isolate care homes for the elderly.

"The government's response was not sufficient," committee chairperson Karin Enstrom, of the opposition Moderate Party, said. "The elderly were particularly vulnerable ... and ... the government should have acted more forcefully."

The Social Democrat-led government has already accepted that it did not do enough to protect elderly residents of care homes.

As of May 26, just over 1 million Swedes have been confirmed as having had COVID-19 and around 14,500 have died.