Swedish minister of enterprise Ibrahim Baylan on Monday said that Swedish businesses, which have been allowed to remain open amid the pandemic, are struggling with a sharp drop in demand.
Baylan told a press conference that some restaurants, bars, and hotels are seeing an average 50 percent drop in demand. In popular tourist areas, demand has dropped by up to 90 percent as residents have altered behavior to comply with social distancing rules.
Several U.S. states are pushing to reopen businesses that were shut down to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. It is unclear if customers will return to these businesses en masse, and Dr. Deborah Birx, response coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force, on Sunday said that social distancing recommendations would likely remain in place throughout the summer.
Sweden has implemented a unique strategy to mitigate the effects of coronavirus, allowing businesses to remain open while enforcing social distancing measures. The country has reported almost 19,000 cases and over 2,200 deaths as of Monday, compared with 7,500 cases and 202 deaths in neighboring Norway, which implemented more stringent lockdowns and business closures.
State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, the architect of Sweden’s coronavirus response, on Friday defended the strategy, suggesting that up to 20 percent of Stockholm may have achieved immunity to the coronavirus.
“Our health system has been able to cope,” Tegnell told the BBC. “There has always been at least 20% of the intensive-care beds empty and able to take care of COVID-19 patients.”