Covid: Sweden official defends Christmas trip to Canary Islands

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image captionMr Eliasson insisted his holiday was justified

A top Swedish official involved in the coronavirus response has defended a Christmas holiday in the Canary Islands in the face of heavy criticism.

Dan Eliasson is head of the civil contingencies agency, which earlier in December had texted all Swedes urging them to avoid travel.

He was photographed in Las Palmas airport on the island of Gran Canaria.

Mr Eliasson insisted the trip was necessary "for family reasons".

He told Swedish media that he had "given up a lot of trips during this pandemic" but thought this one was necessary because he had a daughter living in the Canaries.

"I celebrated Christmas with her and my family," he told Expressen newspaper. He also said he had been worked remotely while in the Canaries.

Sweden has had 437,000 confirmed cases and 8,700 deaths - many more than its Scandinavian neighbours. The country has never imposed a full lockdown.

However, alarmed by rising numbers of cases last month, the Swedish government reversed some of its guidance and sent a text message to all Swedes asking them to read updated guidelines.

The guidelines included asking Swedes to avoid unnecessary trips and not to make new contacts during a journey or at the destination.

Mr Eliasson was then photographed several times in Gran Canaria, including at the airport.

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There have been calls for Mr Eliasson, an experienced official who has worked at several important departments, to be fired.

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and other ministers have not yet commented, according to Swedish media.

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