STOCKHOLM, June 3 (Reuters) – Sweden’s center-left minority government, which never ordered a COVID-19 lockdown and instead mostly relied on voluntary curbs, failed in several aspects of its handling of the pandemic, parliament’s constitutional committee said on Thursday.
The government was slow to implement a test and tracking system, failed to protect the elderly and lacked clear lines of responsibility between national and local authorities, the committee said.
It did not comment on Sweden’s controversial strategy without suspension.
The issue of responsibility for conflicting aspects of the pandemic response has become increasingly important when the country moves towards general elections in September next year.
“It is … clear that Sweden was not sufficiently prepared before (the pandemic) and we can learn from many of the underlying failures that have been identified,” says Hans Ekström, vice chairman of the committee and a Social Democratic legislator, at the hearing.
Sweden has been an outlier in the fight against the pandemic by choosing lockdown. The death toll has been higher than among the Nordic neighbors, but lower than in most European countries that went into lockdown.
The committee said the government should have been quicker in setting up a framework for testing and tracking, faster in drafting a law giving it broader powers to deal with the crisis and faster in isolating nursing homes.
“The government’s response was not enough,” said committee chairman Karin Enstrom, of the opposition’s moderate party.
Minister of Health and Social Affairs Lena Hallengren told the news agency TT that although some issues might have been handled better, the committee had not directed serious constitutional criticism.
“But there are descriptions of things that could have been handled differently and where clarity could have been found more quickly,” she said.
The Social Democratic government has already accepted that it did not do enough to protect elderly residents in nursing homes.
Sweden has registered 8,520 new coronavirus cases since May 27, when a sharp reduction in cases continues. The figures have not been updated since Wednesday last week, when the health authority temporarily closed its database due to a suspected attempt to break into the system.
The agency said it had not found any leaked indications and that it had strengthened security.
As of May 26, just over z million Swedes have been confirmed to have had covid-19 and approximately 14,500 have died.
Reporting by Johan Ahlander and Simon Johnson; editing by Niklas Pollard
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