🦠 Covid on the rise… again
To: Riedia Readers
|December 9, 2022||Sign Up|
Happy Friday! Today is December 9th. In today’s Riedia Sweden Morning Digest, we are covering:
Covid cases on the rise again, Billström urges speedier NATO application, and the US makes a prisoner swap with Russia.
– Julia Powanda, Xuecong Liu, Carlos Lago Solas, ChatGPT
(One of the articles today was written by ChatGPT, the most advanced chatbot AI. Of course, we fact-checked it. Can you spot which one it is? Scroll down to the bottom to check your answer.)
Swedish Covid Response
For the first time in a long time there is a clear increase in the number of people being treated for Covid-19 in hospitals . Few of the cases are serious, but the development is concerning, especially leading into Christmas.
Since April 1st, Covid has no longer been classified as a socially dangerous disease, and cases have remained low. Recently, however, the Covid trend has begun to point upward again.
According to Thomas Wahlberg, infection control physician in the Västra Götaland region, “it has been a slow increase, but last week it really took off and we saw a rapid increase in the groups that are still being tested.”
The region is now preparing for a scenario with the continued increased spread of infection. Marga Brisman, pandemic coordinator and chief physician in the Västra Götaland region, says she “[hopes] we'll reach a peak before Christmas, but you don't know that, the virus is a little elusive. It's becoming a rather stressful situation in hospitals.”
The increasing trend continues throughout the rest of the country. In Stockholm, around 450 patients are treated at hospitals in the region - the highest number since February this year. In Region Skåne, it is the first time since August that cases of infection have increased steadily. The trend is visible among patients and healthcare professionals as well as in samples of elderly people in special housing (säbo).
A contributing factor is that not enough elderly people are taking a fifth covid vaccine dose. As of November 30th, 64 percent of all over the age of 65 had taken their fifth dose.
Swedish NATO Application
Minister of Foreign Affairs Tobias Billström says that it is urgent that Sweden and Finland secure NATO membership , “every day that goes without us being members is a lost day.”
Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Tobias Billström and Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on Thursday. The three leaders discussed Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership, but they acknowledged that it is a matter between Sweden, Finland, and Turkey.
Billström mentions the efforts to pass a constitutional amendment in the Riksdag to strengthen terrorist laws, but makes it clear that there are limitations to what Sweden can do; however, he feels that Turkey understands this, “the Turkish government has clearly realized that the Swedish constitution sets limits… It is impossible for the Swedish government to influence the outcome in courts or influence Swedish freedom of expression law.”
US Secretary of State Blinken said in a press conference that Sweden and Finland had made significant progress and that he believed they would be accepted as NATO allies soon.
Electricity prices in Sweden are hitting new records almost daily. At the same time that cold weather is driving up consumption, electricity production is under pressure .
No need to panic
Electricity consumption and production are under pressure in Sweden this week. Weak winds mean windmills are not producing much energy, and two out of six nuclear reactors are out of service. One more nuclear reactor will go into half-gear this weekend.
Despite all this, the Swedish electricity grid says there is no acute power shortage or risk of an electricity grid shutdown. Authorities had previously warned of power cuts during unfavorable conditions, but say that is not the case this week.
This week, Sweden is expected to rely on imported electricity for a few hours, despite being one of the largest electricity exporters. Being connected to the international electricity grid means that Sweden's electricity prices are affected by global prices. The upside is that the country will have access to enough electricity this weekend, even if it comes at a higher cost.
If the situation becomes more critical, the Swedish power grid can request that the oil-powered Karlshamn power plant go into standby mode. The fact that the power plant has not already been put in standby mode suggests that the power grid is not very concerned about electricity shortages this weekend.
Basketball star Brittney Griner's freedom didn't come free for the US. The US traded notorious arms dealer Victor Bout for Griner.
Not giving up
It came as a surprise to many when US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced in July that the US had received a “strong offer” to negotiate the release of two detained Americans. In addition to Brittney Griner, the Biden administration has been negotiating for the release of convicted spy Paul Whelan.
But Russia must have rejected that deal because when the trade was made on Thursday, only Griner was included. Biden spoke directly to the Whelan family at a press conference, “we're never going to give up, and we're going to keep negotiating for Paul's release, and I guarantee that.”
What else is happening in Sweden?
📉 Companies in Sweden are increasingly worried about the future. 27% of respondents to a survey believe that sales will decrease, and 19% expect to have fewer employees in the next year. Over 5,000 companies participated in the survey.
🏘️ Homeowners are now being forced to sell below their asking price. For the first time in ten years, the final price is now below the asking price on a national level.
🚆 The Swedish transportation agency will convert to a new digital planning system Sunday night. The change has raised concerns about possible delays and cancellations for the upcoming Christmas traffic.
What else is happening in the world?
🇪🇺 Bulgaria and Romania have been denied entry into Schengen by Austria over refugee pressure concerns, despite support from Sweden.
🇮🇷 The first known execution has taken place in Iran in the wake of the country-wide protests. Minister of Foreign Affairs Tobias Billström says, "it is now important that we take action and continue with sanctions."
🇺🇲 The US House of Representatives has voted for same-sex marriages to be protected under federal law. President Joe Biden promises to sign the bill into law soon.
Meanwhile, in Stockholm
🌛 Those who looked up to the sky in the Stockholm area on Wednesday evening could see a beautiful halo phenomenon around the moon. The word halo originates from Greek and means circle. Most halo phenomena are formed when the sun shines on ice crystals.
🚲 Stockholm city's more than 1,000 electric rental bicycles will be taken off the streets , the reason being that the batteries are at risk of catching on fire.
🥕 From January 1st 2023, it will become mandatory for households in Stockholm to sort their food waste . The requirement to sort food was already in place for restaurants and commercial kitchens, now the requirement will apply to individual households.
🌌 NASA's Orion spacecraft has started its return journey after completing its final orbit around the Moon as part of the Artemis 1 lunar mission. The spacecraft is intended to transport people to the Moon in 2025 for the first time since the Apollo program ended 50 years ago.
🦣 Scientists have discovered the oldest DNA ever recorded, belonging to hares, lemmings, and mammoths that lived in Greenland two million years ago. This is significantly older than the previous oldest DNA, which was from a Siberian mammoth that lived one million years ago.
📱 The US state of Indiana is suing TikTok over safety concerns. The state’s Chief Prosecutor Todd Rokita claims that the app has inappropriate materials and saves sensitive user information.
FIFA World Cup
🇶🇦 The World Cup director has faced criticism for his comments on the deaths of migrant workers in Qatar, in which he referred to them as "a natural part of life." The exact number of deaths is still being investigated, but a senior official in Qatar stated "between 400 and 500".
🇧🇷 Today, Brazil has promised to deliver more of its signature dance moves on the field. The national coach has defended the players against criticism that their dancing is disrespectful, stating that it is "part of Brazilian culture." (Correction: a statement about Brazil having it hard against Croatia was wrong, and was thus removed)
What to expect today
🇭🇷 Croatia - Brazil 🇧🇷 16:00
🇳🇱 Netherlands - Argentina 🇦🇷 20:00
Fun fact of the day
Sweden's motto is "För Sverige – i tiden" , which translates to "For Sweden – With the Times".
This motto captures Sweden's commitment to staying current and relevant in a fast-paced world. It reminds us that staying stagnant is not an option and that we must always be ready to adapt to new challenges and opportunities.
It was adopted by Carl XVI Gustaf, the current Swedish king, as his personal motto. It reflects the values and priorities of the Swedish people. The motto has been in use for many years, and it continues to inspire the country to strive for progress and development.
In short, Sweden's motto is a reminder to stay on top of our game and to never be afraid of change. It's a call to embrace the future and make the most of every opportunity that comes our way.
Answer : the fun fact of the day.
We asked ChatGPT for a fun fact about Sweden. And it wrote an article about Sweden’s motto! We took its writing, and only changed the part about the motto’s origin - ChatGPT only commented that the origins are “shrouded in mystery.”
Made with 💛 in Stockholm
Enjoyed this news round up? Think of a friend that would like to learn more about Sweden too. Please share the love with them.
Get to know Sweden in 5 minutes - for free
Get daily email of news roundup in Swedish, English, Chinese, or Spanish.