STOCKHOLM -- The flight from Italy was one of the last arrivals that day at the Stockholm airport. Despite difficulties breathing, the 49-year-old says he was sent home after six hours and told his body was strong enough to “fight it off.”. He believes there is a general unwillingness among Swedish authorities to consider how cultural differences impact people’s behaviors. The country has paid a heavy price, with 3,175 fatalities from COVID-19. I think most people see it [a recommendation] as a very clear advice on how to do this in the best possible manner. The agency’s figures came hot on the heels of a survey by Stockholm health authorities, which showed that some of the capital’s immigrant-dense suburbs were among the hardest hit by the virus. “It’s important that everyone living here who has a different mother tongue gets the right information,” said Warda Addallah, a 17-year-old Somali Swede. After writing the book Between Clan and State: Somalis in Sweden in 2014, Brinkemo toured the country, holding seminars for bureaucrats and local politicians about its basic thesis, namely that Somalis’ and others’ integration has often been marked by a clash between “the extremely collectivist structures of the native culture and the hyperindividualism of Sweden.” But there is a strong aversion in Sweden for the government or authorities to differentiate between people of different ethnic backgrounds, Brinkemo said. “Any country with some form of public health strategy in place knows that and when it comes to immigrant communities, we have established good communication with them, for instance in relation to the national vaccine program,” Tegnell said, adding that it is too early to draw any conclusions as to why some foreign-born Swedes run a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. The Rinkeby-Kista district in the north was the worst affected, with 238 confirmed cases as of April 6. When the state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell was asked at a press conference to clarify what a recommendation from the Public Health Agency, which is central to formulating Sweden’s strategy, entailed, he replied: “What we are talking about here is the Swedish culture, how Swedes interpret recommendations from the authorities. During Ramadan, the month when Muslims fast during the day, the mosque canceled all public events. "When [coronavirus] spread to Sweden, there was not so much information in Somali, and many continued living as usual," Jihan Mohamed , a board member of the Swedish Somali Medical association, told the publication. That is the equivalent of 47 cases per 10,000 residents, which is more than three times higher than the regional average of 13 cases per 10,000 residents. “The rich have the opportunity to put themselves into quarantine, they can go to their summer houses,” Musa said. The Hidden Flaw in Sweden’s Anti-Lockdown Strategy The government has urged social distancing, and Swedes have largely complied. As coronavirus spreads in Sweden, Somali-Swedes may be particularly vulnerable due to lack of coronavirus information in Somali. “Many foreign-born Swedes live in segregated suburbs where up to 80 percent of residents have immigrant backgrounds,” Abdirahman said. A Swedish couple in their 50s walked up and loaded their skis into Razzak Khalaf's taxi. Trump makes 1st public appearance since Biden projected winner, Alex Trebek reflects on cancer battle, hosting 'Jeopardy!' Still not able to return to work, Khalaf is part of the growing evidence that those in immigrant communities in the Nordic nations are being hit harder by the pandemic than the general population. The town of Jarfalla, outside Stockholm, has had high school students hand out leaflets in Somali, Persian, French and other languages, urging people to wash their hands and stay home if sick. It was early March and concerns over the coronavirus were already present, but the couple, both coughing for the entire 45-minute journey, assured Khalaf they were healthy and just suffering from a change in the weather. The Scandinavian country believes its distinctive high-trust culture will protect it from needing to shut down for the pandemic. She said she regretted the fact that sufficient measures were not taken in time and mentioned some new initiatives, such as the city stepping in to offer accommodation for elderly people to help them self-isolate. Four days later, the Iraqi immigrant got seriously ill with COVID-19. With Sweden's relatively low-key approach to fighting the virus that relies mainly on voluntary social distancing, there are concerns the message has not reached everyone in immigrant neighborhoods. Sweden took a relatively soft approach to fighting the coronavirus, one that attracted international attention. Large gatherings were banned but restaurants and schools for younger children have stayed open. View our privacy policy. Many in these communities are more likely to live in crowded, multigeneration households and are unable to work remotely. In Finland, Helsinki authorities warned of a similar over-representation among Somali immigrants in the capital — some 200 cases, or about 14%, of all confirmed infections. Associated Press writers Jari Tanner in Helsinki, Finland, and Mark Lewis in Stavanger, Norway, contributed. “Better late than never,” Brinkemo said, while also insisting that information needs to be not just directly translated but also conveyed in different ways to different groups. While a large proportion of the workforce at those homes is made up of immigrants—28 percent are foreign-born, and in Stockholm the figure is 55 percent, according to the National Board of Health and Welfare—drawing a link here would be “purely speculative,” according to Tegnell. The Vaccine News Is Good. Many in these communities are more likely to live in crowded, multigeneration households and are unable to work remotely. 24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events. Last month, data from Sweden’s Public Health Agency confirmed that Somali Swedes made up almost 5 percent of the country's COVID-19 cases, yet represented less than 1 percent of its 10 million people. More Somalis are dying of coronavirus in Sweden than any other group, Read More: Lebanon's medical students on the frontline in fighting coronavirus. Indeed, the subtleties of bureaucratese are not always self-evident to native-born Swedes, either. In Sweden there is a small diaspora community of Somali immigrants who fled war and poverty who make up just .69 percent of the total population. When he arranged public seminars at a community center, hardly anyone attended, despite written advertisements—until he and his colleagues personally called people to invite them, after which the seminars were full. Here’s the Bad News. “How can a bus driver or a taxi driver work from home?” Musa asked. [1] Normally, this diaspora group fades into the background, but now, suddenly, a chilling new statistic brings them to the fore, as 40 percent of the reported COVID-19 related deaths … The Hidden Flaw in Sweden’s Anti-Lockdown ... STOCKHOLM—Sweden quickly became an object of the world’s attention for its decision to forgo a government-mandated lockdown to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Sweden’s Public Health Agency recently conducted a survey, the results of which were published on April 14. Several generations can live in the same apartment," he added. “All we can hope for now is that it will be part and parcel of the national strategy when the next pandemic comes around.”. Normally, they’d already be landing inside government agencies, preparing for a smooth transfer of power—but can’t yet as Trump levels unfounded claims about election fraud. Nathalie Rothschild is a freelance journalist based in Stockholm. The Hidden Flaw in Sweden’s Anti-Lockdown Strategy. “For instance, in Stockholm more than half of Somalis live in just a single district, so it’s not surprising that once the virus started spreading in that area, Somalis quickly became overrepresented in the statistics.” Abdirahman added: “There are also relatively high levels of ill health and household crowding in these suburbs, and multigenerational households are quite common due to low-income levels. Anders Wallensten, Sweden’s deputy state epidemiologist, said officials have worked harder on communicating with such groups "to make sure they have the knowledge to protect themselves and avoid spreading the disease to others.”. A sign that it is happening within immigrant communities is that many have, indeed, taken it on themselves to spread the messages of social distancing and the recommendations issued by the authorities, from Somali Swedish doctors posting informative videos on Facebook to local celebrities using their social media channels to talk about the pandemic. “I’ve tried to raise the alarm over the fact that many of those who live in these hard-hit areas work in nursery homes and as home carers and they do not have enough protective equipment,” said Kino, who himself ran a home care service firm for two years.