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Thanks for supporting The Local – here’s what we’re doing for readers

The Local Sweden's editor looks back at six months of reporting on the coronavirus in Sweden – and asks what you would like to see more of on The Local in the future.

Thanks for supporting The Local – here's what we're doing for readers
A statue wearing a face mask (not a common occurrence in Sweden) in Stockholm. Photo: Stina Stjernkvist/TT

Six months ago, we published the first article about the new coronavirus on The Local's Swedish site. It was just a short article, based on news agency copy, about Ikea stores being closed in China as infections rose to around 7,700 at the time. But only two days later the first case was detected in Sweden.

We have published more than 430 articles about the coronavirus in Sweden since then.

This year has been like nothing most of us have ever experienced.

Here at The Local, we are used to writing about experiences that we are familiar with ourselves – most of our staff live or have lived abroad just like our readers – but the coronavirus brought it to a new level.

While writing about it, our reporters and other staff have been living through this pandemic just like you, worrying about family, cancelling plans, falling ill with the coronavirus, not knowing when they will be able to see friends and relatives back home, stressing about future uncertainties, working from home.

The Local's staff from our nine European sites flew to Stockholm for a meetup in January, just weeks before the pandemic hit. Photo: Tim Marringa/The Local

It was near-impossible to disconnect from work during the peak of the crisis; as journalists, we always want to tell the latest story. I remember watching Prime Minister Stefan Löfven's televised address to the nation late in the evening at home and automatically pulling up my laptop to translate it to English for The Local. At least Löfven did not have a habit of giving important speeches after midnight as his Italian counterpart.

We made a decision early on not to try to be experts – we are not science journalists and there are others who do that much better than us. So we have focused on answering your questions and telling your stories. The crisis isn't over, so we're still updating our paywall-free blog every day with the latest developments.

There have been so many stories to tell. One that has stuck with me was investigating how Sweden's intensive care coped with the crisis, including speaking with doctors about their heroic efforts against all odds, and the failures that saw one daughter having to fight to get ventilator treatment for her father.

But the most important stories have come from you, our readers.

One of our main priorities during this time has been to simply explain what's going on to help you keep track of the latest guidelines, numbers and rules, and explain the intricacies behind Sweden's controversial strategy so that when you talk about it – whether you're for or against – you can make your best arguments. It is more complicated than we often think, and we have had to learn a lot ourselves along the way.

Another, equally important, priority has been to raise your voices. Whether we're talking about face masks or work permits, we want to make sure that the voices of Sweden's international community are not drowned out from the public debate. Our readers' views are not at all unanimous, but each and every one of you should be allowed to feel that you are just as entitled to criticise or praise Sweden as anyone else.

We have tried to hold decision-makers to account whenever we can. One behind-the-scenes aspect has been that working from home has made it difficult to get long interviews with representatives of Sweden's health authorities. I'm not even sure how many times we've been told “no” when we have requested an interview. But occasionally, we have managed to put your questions to senior government ministers.

And we've been worried about the future of our jobs and business, like everyone else. So many media companies have had to lay off journalists this year, in Sweden and abroad. Here at The Local, we saw our advertising revenues plummet. We were rescued by a record number of readers who signed up as paying members (there are now 27,000 of you, but we will need 40,000 to be sustainable on membership alone).

You literally saved us. But it is not over.

We now need to keep growing to secure our future and develop our sites to expand our coverage of the issues that matter to you. And more importantly: we want to start paying you back. We're reinvesting much of our membership revenue into improving the site and our journalism – this is our way of saying thank you.

Here are some of the things we have started working on thanks to our members:

We have brought on board a new external columnist. Lisa Bjurwald is a well-known Swedish journalist and when she's on fire, she's on fire. Don't miss her thoughts on why Sweden's lagom doesn't cut it in a crisis.

We have been able to recruit more freelancers to help fill in for me and my colleague Catherine Edwards when we're away. Dutch writer Anne Grietje Franssen is one of them, and she has already written some of our most popular features on The Local this summer. Coincidentally, she is based in Gothenburg on the west coast, so we have been able to publish more reports from Sweden's second-biggest city.

Many readers have asked us if they can support us financially in other ways than membership, so we added a donation option on their request. We have not promoted this option much, so the funds are relatively small, but we have already invested some of it into expanding our coverage as above. Some of the things our tech team is also working on include improved apps, mobile sites and comment section.

We have launched a new article series featuring our readers' businesses, on the back of revamping our noticeboard to help readers promote their businesses so we can help each other through tough times.

We recently launched a new weekly newsletter for members only. I hope you'll like it.

At the start of summer, we received a grant from the Solutions Journalism Network to take an in-depth look at the responses to different parts of the coronavirus crisis in Europe, what's worked, what hasn't, and why. This gave us the opportunity to do more in-depth journalism, and we would love to do much more.

We have received more emails than ever from readers, and they have been so incredibly thoughtful. Our article revealing the racial slurs some foreigners have received for wearing face masks, and our article speaking with couples kept apart by travel restrictions, were both prompted by readers who got in touch.

Another project we've been working on throughout the year is a solutions journalism training course for migration reporters. We know, as do you, that migration can be good, bad and everything in between, but too often is the 'in between' left out of media coverage of migration. Here's what we've learned.

Thank you for reading The Local. We don't call our paying readers subscribers, we call you members, and it's not just a buzzword, it's because we see membership as a community. Our conversations with you, whether your feedback is good or bad, always help improve our editorial decisions – you're vital to us.

If you have any questions or thoughts about what you would want to see more of on The Local in the future, please don't hesitate to get in touch with us. We read every email we get. You can find my email below.

Best wishes,

Emma Löfgren
Editor, The Local Sweden
[email protected]

The Local Sweden's editorial team, Catherine Edwards and Emma Löfgren. Photo: Nele Schröder

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Sweden’s pandemic strategy ‘fundamentally correct’: Coronavirus Commission

Sweden's Covid-19 response was "fundamentally correct", but the government should have taken the lead, and brought in earlier and tougher measures, the country's Coronavirus Commission has concluded.

Sweden's pandemic strategy 'fundamentally correct': Coronavirus Commission

“It was fundamentally right to rely on issuing advice and recommendations,” Mats Melin, the commission’s chair said at a press conference after issuing the report. “The state should not limit the freedom of the individual more than is necessary to limit a dangerous sickness.” 

In addition, he noted, countries which had imposed greater restrictions had not necessarily had better outcomes. 

“We are not convinced that long-lasting and repeated lockdowns are necessary element in the response to a new, serious epidemic outbreak,” he said. 

Sweden made headlines early on in the pandemic by not introducing a lockdown, instead issuing recommendations on home-working, social distancing and good hand hygiene.

But tougher measures should have been introduced in February-March 2020, Melin said, with the measures that were imposed “too few” and coming “too late”. 


While the commission hailed Sweden’s decision to keep most schools open during the first wave, it said that by March 2020 there “should have been temporary closures” of indoor places where people gather, such as shopping centres, restaurants, sport events and so on.”

In particular, it criticised the fact that it took until the end of March 2020 for the limit on public gatherings to be lowered to 50 people. 

It also said that those returning from ski trips in Italy at the end of February and the start of March should have been asked to quarantine, while incoming travel should have temporarily been stopped for all but the most necessary journeys, as happened in Denmark and Norway.   

In an interview with The Local, Sweden’s health minister Lena Hallengren welcomed the commission’s conclusion that the fundamental strategy had been correct. 

“That the commission concludes that the overall strategy based on non-invasive recommendations and a non-lockdown policy, that they think that was the right choice. I think that’s good,” she said. 

At later stages of the pandemic, Sweden eventually introduced stricter measures, including bans on elderly home visits, earlier closings at bars and restaurants, and vaccine passes for indoor events.

The commission also said the government should have assumed leadership of all aspects of Covid crisis management, despite the Public Health Agency’s large degree of autonomy and a healthcare system managed by self-governing regional councils.

“The government had too one-sided a dependence on assessments made by the Public Health Agency”, it said.

It was not until the end of October that the government began to try to take a leading role, with documentation obtained by the commission showing the then Prime Minister Stefan Löfven trying to take more precedence over the Public Health Agency. 

The government, it concluded, should also have sought to get alternative views from other infectious disease and public health experts, rather than relying solely on the Public Health Agency’s expertise.   

Hallengren told The Local that she rejected this aspect of the report. 

“The government has been the one leading and deciding, and we are responsible,” she said. 

She also rejected the claim that the government had been over-reliant on the agency’s experts. 

“They can have their opinion about that, but the fact is, that the Public Health Agency is not an expert, it’s hundreds of experts, who are working with infection control and working with public health issues all the time,” she said. “It would be very strange if I, as minister for health, or the government, relied on specific or unique experts instead of this very big expert authority when it comes to epidemiological knowledge.”

An earlier partial report by the commission had also criticised the country’s slowness is setting up adequate testing measures.

With more than 17,000 fatalities so far, Sweden’s death toll is slightly better than the European average but is far higher per capita than those of neighbouring Norway, Finland and Denmark.