Sweden’s Public Health Chief Caught Defying Face Mask Advice

The man in charge of Sweden’s Covid-19 response has been caught breaking his own advice on face masks on at least two occasions in the past week, according to state broadcaster SVT.

The Director-General of the country’s Public Health Agency, Johan Carlsson, was seen at Stockholm central station during rush hour without a face mask and also traveled on a bus without facial protection after 4 p.m., the broadcaster reported.

“It’s of course embarrassing,” Carlsson told SVT, adding that he wasn’t aware of the time.

In a string of similarly awkward episodes last month, a number of the most senior members of Sweden’s government, including Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, were caught apparently ignoring their own Covid guidelines. The head of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency asked to resign after a Christmas trip to the Canary Islands.

Kristoffer Tamsons, the Regional Minister for Transport in Stockholm, called the development “extremely serious.”

“You must practice what you preach,” Tamsons said in an e-mailed comment. “This behavior calls for an explanation.”

Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s top epidemiologist and the chief architect behind the country’s Covid strategy, said Carlsson’s mistake was “human,” urging everyone to wear masks.

“I know that Johan normally follows the guidelines but we’re all human and we sometimes forget.”

Confidence in the government’s approach to the pandemic keeps declining. Only 26% of Swedes think Lofven has handled the coronavirus outbreak well, marking a decline of 8 percentage points since December, according to a poll from Dagens Nyheter/Ipsos. Of those surveyed, 37% say the prime minister is doing a bad job.

Nearly 11,500 people have died of Covid-19 in Sweden, which is far higher than elsewhere in the Nordic region.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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