Whatever I write now will probably be out of date within twenty-four hours, such is the swiftness of the coronavirus.  What the pandemic is highlighting is that incredible, dedicated people work in the health services around the world.  In the UK, we have always been proud of our National Health Service despite it seeing years of government neglect.  Now maybe one positive result of this dreadful situation is that future governments will respect and invest in our health system.

Of course, I’ve been keeping an eye on how Sweden has handled the crisis, as I have family and friends over there.  Initially, their approach was similar to the UK’s – not to do anything too drastic.  When the UK started to tighten up, Sweden didn’t.  We closed all our schools (except for children of key workers) – Sweden closed universities and gymnasiums (senior schools), but junior education still continues.  The rationale behind this is that older children are better able to cope with remote learning and care for themselves.  They also tend to have longer distances to travel to and from their schools. This strategy keeps students off public transport and in their homes, while still learning remotely.  The reason the health minister gave for delaying the closure of primary and elementary schools was because many of the parents who would have to stay home to care for their children work in vital areas such as healthcare and transport. He was also worried that if families turned to grandparents to care for their offspring, this might put the older generation at greater risk.

In the UK, as in most of Europe, pubs, cafés, restaurants and nightclubs have been closed as part of our lockdown.  In Sweden they’ve stayed open.  The only change this week (Tuesday) has been that customers can only receive table service.  Gatherings are still allowed, as are events with under 500 people.

I’ve read that this flexibility of thinking has produced one very interesting development.  One of the first Swedish casualties of the pandemic was the laying off of thousands of SAS (Scandinavian Airlines) staff.  With healthcare professionals coming under increasing pressure, the Novare, Sophiahemmet and Wallenberg Foundations are creating and funding healthcare training for out-of-work SAS employees.

Though situations like our present one can bring out the worst in people (like panic buying), it has been gratifying to see the large numbers of those volunteering to help both in Britain (over 400,000 already) and around Europe.  The Local reported today that there had been 5,000 people in Stockholm offering to volunteer after an appeal by the regional healthcare director.  The acts of kindness shown by ordinary people every day is inspirational.

Finally, I would like to applaud all health professionals for their titanic efforts, as did the people of Britain at eight o’clock last night in the ‘Clap for Carers’.  And I hope that all my readers, wherever you may be in the world, are keeping safe.