Sweden still hasn't locked down but normal life is a luxury for only a few

On an early April evening, Lisa Leander and Kristoffer Liljedahl watch a movie from their car at Gothenburg’s newly opened drive-in theater. Editor’s Note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft. In April, just as Sweden was beginning to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, I photographed a benefit concert at my favorite music hall, Pustervik, in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second-largest city. After the last note was played, the 30 or so symptom-free musicians, staff, and crew gathered on stage for a group photo. The moment seemed to capture the essence of how people in Sweden are treating the pandemic: If you don’t feel sick, you’re free to liveyour normal life. ____________________________________________________ More on coronavirus: ____________________________________________________ While other countries have enacted strict lockdowns to slow the pace of COVID-19, in Sweden, daily life for some appears to be going on as usual. Instead of quarantines, the government has issuedsocial distancing guidelines, including limiting large gatherings and encouraging people to stay home if they can. Fifty Swedes, spread out in 24 cars, get ready to watch My Dad Marianne on a pier that typically hosts festivals with 18,000 attendees. Recent government restrictions forced movie theaters to close and limits gatherings to 50 people. Social distancing regulations in Sweden are paradoxical: only 50 people are allowed to congregate in large settings like this, but many more cansqueeze into bars and restaurants. In its approach to the coronavirus pandemic, the Swedish government is doing something few other countries are: It’s relying on individual responsibility to flatten the curve. The result could be that we gradually build herd immunity; at the end of April, officials estimated that Stockholm was just a few weeks from achieving that status. At times, it feels like we’re living in the film, The Truman Show, with outsiders regarding us as if we were a social experiment. Needing a reality check, I spent a week traveling across Gothenburg to see how people from different backgrounds are dealing with the pandemic. My journey began on Brännö, an island off the west coast of Gothenburg, where I met Ann Kathrin Görisch, a freelance illustrator. “So thosewho don’thave symptoms live normally.” A few days after my visit to Brännö, I rode the tram, Gothenburg’s public streetcar system, to the city center. Armed with hand sanitizer, I practiced social distancing; my fellow riders did, too, as if out of habit. Gallery: Coronavirus turns the world into a ghost town (The Atlantic) At city center, I stopped into Saluhallen, the city’s biggest meat and fish market. Murals frame the scene with messages like “Soap + Water, and we’ll deal with the climate crisis after that.” Back on the tram, as we sped east along line 11, I watched the scenery change: boarded-up stores, emptier streets, with the occasional outdoor restaurant full of diners. If they lose their jobs, they can rely on the government to help pay their salaries.  On the east end, life is more uncertain. Residents in these diverse neighborhoods report that—without clear, decisive guidelines from the Swedish government—they are taking advice from overseas relatives who say lockdown measures in their countries have worked. Normally, restaurants and bars in a popular nightlife zone there would buzz with patrons every day of the week. Some business owners say that instead of this dramatically reduced traffic, they’d rather have a shutdown so they cangetgovernment aid to pay the bills. The Swedish government and employers are paying at least 90 percent of salaries for those who’ve been temporarily laid off or had their hours reduced due to the market slowdown. For five years, Lul Ali has run a shop called Horsed Beauty in eastern Gothenburg. It’s been difficult convincing her teenage children to follow guidelines on social distancing, Siljander said—until a family friend got sick. So next time we are even better prepared.” Along with drive-in movie theaters, Swedes can participate in virtual political events, livestreamed religious services, and drive-in concerts. People here are finding new ways to keep culture alive despite government restrictions, which still pale in comparison to much of the world. That rule applies to a drive-in cinema on an enormous pier where there’d be much more space between people—but not to a tiny bar which would still be crowded with fewer people. But it might make more sense for the government to have stricter and more specific regulations, like requiring eateries to putawayhalf the tables and then compensating them for the lost business. I don’t believe in a full lockdown; I think social distancing works to slow things down and flatten the curve.