Sweden has announced more than 100 coronavirus deaths in a day for the first time, as its neighbour Finland ordered extra checks on their usually busy border.
The 114 new deaths bring the Swedish toll from 477 to 591, an increase of nearly 24 per cent which will add to growing alarm about the light touch that Sweden is taking.
Another 487 people have been confirmed to have the virus, which marks a jump of more than 100 from yesterday’s 376.
It brings Sweden’s total case load from 7,206 to 7,693, in a country of 10million people where bars, restaurants and schools are still open.
This graph shows how the daily death toll in Sweden has shot up in the last two days, reaching 76 yesterday and another record high of 114 today
Sweden’s total infection tally increased by 487 today, a jump of more than 100 on yesterday’s figure, bringing the total to 7,693
Pedestrians walk along a pavement in Stockholm at the weekend where the Swedish government has yet to impose any major lockdown measures
Around 3,300 of the cases are in Stockholm, where people have still been gathering in shopping malls and exercising in outdoor gyms.
The Finnish government today announced that a ban on all but essential traffic over the borders with Sweden and Norway would continue until at least May 13.
Finland’s land border with Sweden is usually crossed by thousands of workers and families a day, although it has already fallen by 95 per cent since the crisis began.
‘In addition to extending the measures, quarantine requirements for arrivals will be tightened,’ interior minister Maria Ohisalo said.
Under the new measures, workers must now carry a permission slip from their employer stating that the border crossing is essential.
Once they arrive in Finland, they must remain under quarantine for 14 days.
‘The government’s aim is to further reduce movement in the inherent commute area across the borders with Sweden and Norway,’ Finland’s government said.
A senior Finnish infection specialist had already for an end to work-related travel over the Lapland border with Sweden.
‘It is a significant risk when so many people are coming through the border every day,’ Dr Markku Broas of Lapland Central Hospital told Finnish public broadcaster Yle.
People sit at close quarters at a restaurant in Stockholm at the weekend. The region around the capital accounts for more than 40 per cent of Sweden’s confirmed cases
Young people socialise on a rooftop in Stockholm on Saturday. Officials in Sweden have so far refused to order a lockdown amid the coronavirus crisis
This map shows the latest number of cases around the world. The United States has the largest number of infections, although Italy still has the highest death toll
Finland has recorded only 27 deaths after shutting schools, forcing restaurants to close and blockading the region around Helsinki.
Ohisalo told the press conference that the measures so far had succeeded in slowing the spread of the virus in Finland and that the government would begin ‘an exit conversation’ in the coming days about when to roll back the restrictions.
But Sweden is instead telling people to take ‘responsibility’ for public health, advising them to keep their distance rather than enforcing rules.
Only the most vulnerable citizens have been encouraged to self-isolate at home, while visits to nursing homes have been banned.
Restaurants, bars and primary schools remain open, and the streets of Stockholm are quieter than usual but far from a ghost town.
The lack of restrictions make Sweden an outlier in Europe, prompting alarm from many doctors and academics.
In a sign of a possible hardening, Sweden’s government yesterday demanded emergency powers to combat the outbreak.
A proposed bill could allow officials to limit public gatherings or close businesses without the approval of parliament.
‘We see a need to be able to act quickly if the situation calls for it, it is ultimately about protecting human lives,’ said health minister Lena Hallengren.
The new bill would only grant the extra powers for a period of three months, but opposition politicians voiced concerns over the proposed law.
The leader of the conservative Moderate Party, Ulf Kristersson, said the government has not faced any delays in rolling out measures so far.