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Coronavirus: Sweden's isolated elderly urged to rejoin society

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image captionNacka, near Stockholm: The Red Cross has been delivering to elderly people

Swedes aged over 70 and other at-risk groups should now follow the same coronavirus guidelines as the rest of the population, the authorities say.

Sweden previously advised those groups to avoid all close contact with people they did not live with.

But Sweden's public health chief said self-isolation had taken a toll on the elderly. The country has not imposed tough rules seen elsewhere in Europe.

Sweden's infection rate is rising, but other parts of Europe are hit harder.

A second lockdown is in force in the Czech Republic to tackle a big surge.

Belgium, the Netherlands, France and the UK are also hotspots, as countries generally scramble to make more intensive care beds available.

Sweden strives for 'a balance'

For months elderly Swedes and other at-risk groups have been advised to avoid going to shops, including supermarkets and pharmacies.

Johan Carlson, head of Sweden's Public Health Agency, said the recommendations had helped reduce the spread of the virus to vulnerable groups.

But he said there had been physical and mental health consequences for those groups. Given the duration of the pandemic, he added, it was unreasonable for them to continue carrying that burden.

"There will be a risk for individuals. We will see that a few people will get sick, but we have to find a balance," he said.

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The advice for the general population includes avoiding large gatherings - such as busy restaurants - frequent hand-washing, social distancing and working from home if possible, the BBC's Maddy Savage reports.

Uppsala, north of Stockholm, became the first region to introduce tougher local rules on Tuesday, with all residents advised to avoid physical contact with those they don't live with.

media captionRos Atkins looks at one country that's been an outlier since the start of the pandemic: Sweden

Sweden's relatively relaxed policy compared with most of Europe - for example no order to wear masks - has drawn intense international interest. The nation of 10 million prides itself on social consensus and persuasion, rather than government diktat.

Czechs urged to stay home

In the Czech Republic people must stay at home unless they have to go out to work. Exercising outside and shopping for food and medicine are also permitted.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said the harsh restrictions were regrettable, but without this the hospitals would be overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients within about three weeks. The lockdown is in place until at least 3 November.

The country of 10.6 million was among the first to lock down in Europe back in March, when the first wave struck, earning respect for its tough policy of closing borders and mass-producing millions of masks.

But now it has Europe's highest infection rate - there were 14,968 new cases on Wednesday - and Covid-linked deaths have risen to 1,739, of whom 69 died on Wednesday, according to official data.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionQueuing for tests in Prague: the Czech infection rate is soaring

Some areas have recorded rates above 800 infections for every 100,000 people. In neighbouring Germany, 50 per 100,000 is considered the danger threshold.

Meanwhile, Belgium's Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès, 45, is in intensive care. The former prime minister announced she had tested positive on Saturday, and said the infection "probably occurred within my family circle".

Her spokesperson described her as conscious and "relatively OK" on Thursday.

Belgium's current recorded death toll is 10,539 - its Covid-linked deaths per capita put it third-highest in the world after Peru and San Marino, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

At an EU foreign ministers' meeting on 12 October Ms Wilmès sat next to Austria's Alexander Schallenberg, who also tested positive later.

data in detail

Scroll table to see more data

*Deaths per 100,000 people

US 262,254 80.2 12,826,395
Brazil 171,460 81.9 6,204,220
India 135,715 10.0 9,309,787
Mexico 104,242 82.6 1,078,594
UK 57,031 84.9 1,574,562
Italy 52,850 87.2 1,509,875
France 50,618 77.9 2,170,097
Iran 46,689 57.1 908,346
Spain 44,374 95.0 1,617,355
Argentina 37,941 85.5 1,399,431
Russia 37,688 25.9 2,169,424
Colombia 36,019 72.5 1,280,487
Peru 35,685 111.6 952,439
South Africa 21,289 36.8 778,571
Indonesia 16,352 6.1 516,753
Belgium 16,219 141.3 567,532
Germany 15,640 18.8 1,017,830
Poland 15,568 41.1 941,112
Chile 15,235 81.3 545,662
Ecuador 13,316 77.9 188,138
Turkey 13,014 15.8 503,738
Ukraine 12,283 27.8 711,973
Iraq 12,125 31.5 544,670
Canada 11,818 31.9 356,650
Romania 10,712 54.9 449,349
Netherlands 9,187 53.9 503,284
Bolivia 8,939 78.7 144,390
Philippines 8,242 7.7 424,297
Pakistan 7,897 3.7 389,311
Czech Republic 7,779 72.9 511,520
Sweden 6,622 66.4 236,355
Egypt 6,596 6.7 114,475
Bangladesh 6,524 4.0 456,438
Saudi Arabia 5,840 17.3 356,389
Morocco 5,619 15.6 340,684
China 4,742 0.3 92,488
Switzerland 4,509 52.9 313,978
Hungary 4,229 43.6 192,047
Portugal 4,209 41.0 280,394
Guatemala 4,133 24.0 120,685
Bulgaria 3,529 50.0 136,628
Tunisia 3,034 26.2 92,475
Panama 3,018 72.3 160,287
Honduras 2,892 30.2 106,681
Israel 2,834 33.8 333,443
Austria 2,773 31.2 266,038
Jordan 2,509 25.2 203,021
Bosnia and Herzegovina 2,480 74.6 84,252
Algeria 2,352 5.6 79,110
Dominican Republic 2,317 21.8 140,922
Moldova 2,229 55.0 102,894
Armenia 2,090 70.8 132,346
Ireland 2,036 42.3 71,494
Greece 2,001 19.0 99,306
Japan 1,996 1.6 140,225
Kazakhstan 1,990 10.9 129,213
Myanmar 1,846 3.4 85,205
Afghanistan 1,737 4.7 45,716
Paraguay 1,704 24.5 79,517
Costa Rica 1,679 33.6 135,742
Ethiopia 1,672 1.5 107,669
North Macedonia 1,630 78.3 58,608
Croatia 1,552 37.3 115,626
Kenya 1,427 2.8 80,102
Nepal 1,412 5.0 227,640
Oman 1,391 28.8 122,579
Serbia 1,366 19.6 148,214
Azerbaijan 1,256 12.6 106,101
Kyrgyzstan 1,256 19.9 71,548
Slovenia 1,245 59.9 71,073
Sudan 1,215 2.9 16,864
Nigeria 1,169 0.6 66,974
Georgia 1,161 29.0 123,470
Libya 1,140 17.1 80,407
Belarus 1,128 11.9 130,012
El Salvador 1,098 17.1 37,884
Lebanon 974 14.2 122,200
Kosovo 963 52.2 37,028
Australia 907 3.6 27,873
Venezuela 884 3.1 101,215
Kuwait 872 21.1 141,547
Denmark 811 14.1 75,395
Albania 753 26.1 35,600
Slovakia 749 13.7 101,257
Palestinian Territories 680 14.0 78,493
Yemen 612 2.1 2,137
Uzbekistan 607 1.9 72,409
United Arab Emirates 564 5.9 163,967
South Korea 516 1.0 32,887
Montenegro 469 74.7 33,316
Lithuania 449 16.0 53,757
Cameroon 437 1.7 24,022
Syria 399 2.4 7,542
Finland 388 7.0 23,148
Zambia 357 2.1 17,553
Malaysia 348 1.1 60,752
Bahrain 341 21.7 86,347
Angola 341 1.1 14,920
DR Congo 333 0.4 12,470
Senegal 331 2.1 15,960
Ghana 323 1.1 51,225
Norway 316 5.9 34,748
Luxembourg 294 48.7 32,873
Zimbabwe 274 1.9 9,623
Madagascar 251 1.0 17,341
Jamaica 248 8.5 10,541
Qatar 237 8.5 138,066
Haiti 232 2.1 9,256
Uganda 191 0.4 19,115
Latvia 188 9.7 15,171
Malawi 185 1.0 6,020
Mauritania 171 3.9 8,288
Bahamas 163 42.3 7,482
Nicaragua 160 2.5 5,784
Guadeloupe 149 37.3 8,344
Guyana 149 19.1 5,276
Mali 148 0.8 4,505
Namibia 147 6.0 14,155
Cuba 133 1.2 8,075
Ivory Coast 131 0.5 21,199
Belize 131 34.2 5,515
Mozambique 128 0.4 15,467
Malta 125 28.5 9,405
Gambia 123 5.4 3,728
Eswatini 120 10.6 6,329
Suriname 117 20.3 5,307
Trinidad and Tobago 116 8.3 6,570
Somalia 113 0.8 4,451
Cape Verde 105 19.3 10,570
Chad 101 0.7 1,661
Sri Lanka 99 0.5 22,028
Estonia 99 7.5 10,955
Congo 93 1.8 5,632
Tajikistan 86 0.9 12,044
Equatorial Guinea 85 6.5 5,146
Liberia 83 1.7 1,591
Guinea 76 0.6 12,949
Andorra 76 98.7 6,534
Uruguay 74 2.1 5,117
Sierra Leone 74 1.0 2,409
French Polynesia 72 25.9 13,883
French Guiana 70 24.7 11,138
Niger 70 0.3 1,443
Burkina Faso 68 0.3 2,777
Togo 64 0.8 2,904
Central African Republic 63 1.4 4,913
Djibouti 61 6.4 5,676
South Sudan 61 0.6 3,092
Thailand 60 0.1 3,961
Gabon 59 2.8 9,173
Mayotte 49 18.9 5,181
Cyprus 48 4.0 9,673
Channel Islands 48 28.2 1,147
Rwanda 47 0.4 5,851
Maldives 46 8.9 12,889
Aruba 45 42.5 4,791
Lesotho 44 2.1 2,109
San Marino 44 130.2 1,514
Benin 43 0.4 2,974
Guinea-Bissau 43 2.3 2,422
Martinique 40 10.6 5,413
Réunion 39 4.4 7,836
Vietnam 35 0.0 1,331
Botswana 31 1.4 10,258
Singapore 28 0.5 58,195
Iceland 26 7.7 5,323
New Zealand 25 0.5 2,047
Saint Martin 25 67.1 1,041
Isle of Man 25 29.7 369
Tanzania 21 0.0 509
Sao Tome and Principe 17 8.1 985
Liechtenstein 14 36.9 1,208
Diamond Princess cruise ship 13 712
Mauritius 10 0.8 498
Bermuda 9 14.3 241
Papua New Guinea 7 0.1 645
Taiwan 7 0.0 625
Comoros 7 0.8 610
Barbados 7 2.4 266
Turks and Caicos Islands 6 15.9 746
Gibraltar 5 14.8 991
Antigua and Barbuda 4 4.2 141
Curaçao 3 1.8 2,046
Monaco 3 7.8 600
Brunei 3 0.7 150
Cayman Islands 2 3.1 269
Saint Lucia 2 1.1 238
Fiji 2 0.2 38
MS Zaandam cruise ship 2 9
Burundi 1 0.0 677
British Virgin Islands 1 3.4 71
Montserrat 1 20.0 13
Western Sahara 1 0.2 10
Mongolia 0 0.0 738
Eritrea 0 0.0 566
Faroe Islands 0 0.0 500
Bhutan 0 0.0 389
Cambodia 0 0.0 307
Seychelles 0 0.0 166
Saint Barthelemy 0 0.0 127
St Vincent and the Grenadines 0 0.0 84
Dominica 0 0.0 77
Grenada 0 0.0 41
New Caledonia 0 0.0 32
Timor-Leste 0 0.0 30
Vatican 0 0.0 27
Laos 0 0.0 25
Saint Kitts and Nevis 0 0.0 22
Greenland 0 0.0 18
Solomon Islands 0 0.0 17
Saint Pierre and Miquelon 0 0.0 16
Falkland Islands 0 0.0 16
Marshall Islands 0 0.0 4
Anguilla 0 0.0 4
Vanuatu 0 0.0 1

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This information is regularly updated but may not reflect the latest totals for each country.

** The past data for new cases is a three day rolling average. Due to revisions in the number of cases, an average cannot be calculated for this date.

Source: Johns Hopkins University, national public health agencies and UN population data

Figures last updated: 27 November 2020, 08:24 GMT

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