No-lockdown Sweden broke with most of the world and didn’t require face masks. Those who wear them say they’re treated with suspicion and abuse.

Sweden coronavirus
Commuters at a train station in Stockholm, Sweden. The country has no mask mandate.

  • Sweden, which has taken a unique approach to the pandemic, doesn’t have a mask mandate.
  • Those who wear face masks tell Insider they are scared or face abuse in public.
  • One person said: “I have had people cough on me or mimic coughing on more occasions than I can count.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Andreia Rodrigues left Sweden because of its COVID-19 response.

Rodrigues, who had been living in Sweden for more than four years, decided to return to her native Portugal in March, saying she felt unsafe living in a country where the government had no rules about mask wearing, and where she faced abuse when she did wear one.

“I couldn’t take it in Sweden anymore,” she told Insider.

She said her fiancé feared for her safety when she went outside in a mask.

“I have had people laugh and point at me, people screaming, ‘You should lock yourself at home if you are so scared of corona,’ people coughing in my direction and then laughing and saying: ‘Corona! Corona!'”

Sweden coronavirus
An outdoor restaurant in Stockholm on March 26, 2020.

Sweden’s health ministry doesn’t recommend mask wearing as a preventative measure against the coronavirus.

The strategy contrasts with most other countries, where mask wearing in indoor settings often remained a rule even as governments were recording low case numbers.

Governments and scientists in places like the UK have said masks will likely be the last rule to change in their countries as they reopen.

And while Sweden’s government tweaked its recommendations in January to ask that people wear masks in very specific circumstances, most of the country still doesn’t do it, leaving those who do feeling ostracized and unsafe.

Sweden has long pursued a different strategy

Sweden has taken a unique approach to the pandemic. As other nations implemented lockdowns, Sweden had few rules, focusing instead on social distancing.

Its death toll rose much higher than the countries beside it, despite having similar population demographics.

However, that death toll has stayed lower than many other European countries that were overwhelmed by the virus.

Experts pointed to unique aspects of Swedish life as reasons for this, including the high volume of people that live alone and population’s high trust in the government, which suggests people are likely to follow recommendations even without their becoming formal rules.

Still, the country’s leaders say there were mistakes: In December, Sweden’s prime minister said some errors were made, and the king called the coronavirus strategy “a failure.”

Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, also said last June that, with hindsight, more measures were needed.

Some residents now say they fear Sweden is making similar mistakes with its mask strategy.

Sweden coronavirus
People take the train in Stockholm on March 1, 2021.

‘They would glare at me … yell at me, cough at me’

Jennifer Luetz, who is originally from Germany, lives in Norrköping, near Stockholm. She told Insider people “stared at me like I was an alien” when she started wearing a mask last February.

Luetz said she is in an at-risk group, and is afraid to stop wearing a one.

She said she “got used to the staring.”

But she said “what was horrid, though, was the catcalls and the nasty comments, people laughing at you openly in the stores.” She also said she received xenophobic comments for wearing a mask.

Others, who said they wore masks to feel safer, described similar reactions.

One woman, who asked not to be named as she said it could put her husband’s job at risk, told Insider she got funny looks when she started wearing a mask in March 2020. Her identity is known to Insider.

“As months passed, people became more aggressive. They would glare at me in anger, yell at me, cough at me. It was ridiculous and made me very angry,” she said.

Keith Begg, who lives in a Stockholm suburb and campaigns for stricter coronavirus rules, said he has faced “ongoing” abuse for wearing a mask since April 2020.

He said it’s less rare now, but there were many incidents: “Once I had my mask ripped off by a bunch of teenagers who ran away. I have had people cough on me or mimic coughing on more occasions than I can count,” he said.

“You still become a little bit conscious of wearing a mask in Sweden because it is still not normalized.”

Sweden coronavirus
A commuter waits for a bus on January 7, 2021, in Sweden.

Another woman in Stockholm, who asked not to be named as she feared repercussions from work, said she gets accusing looks from people when wearing a mask, and her children were made fun of in school for wearing them.

Masks are barely recommended

Sweden’s public health agency emphasizes many of the steps other countries do: Social distancing, working from home, washing your hands, getting vaccinated.

But masks are a notable absence.

The “how to protect yourself” section on the agency’s website does not mention face coverings. Nor does its list of recommendations for reducing the spread.

In January, ten months after a pandemic was declared, the agency added a recommendation – not a rule – that adults wear face masks on public transport.

And it’s only for rush hours: between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., and 4 p.m. and 6 p.m, and only when they can’t distance themselves from other people.

Most countries battling the virus have required masks indoors, and some European countries, like Belgium and France, have mandated wearing them outdoors.

Israel, which has the highest proportion of its population fully vaccinated, only has one restriction still in place: masks in closed public spaces.

The World Health Organization also recommends that fully vaccinated people continue to wear masks.

Anders Tegnell
State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell of the Public Health Agency of Sweden on May 20, 2021.

But here’s how Sweden has justified its alternative approach: Both Tegnell, the state epidemiologist, and Johan Carlson, head of the public health agency, have said that mask wearing could lead to people ignoring other recommendations like social distancing.

Swedes don’t often have to wear masks

Insider also spoke to people in Sweden who say they only wear masks in line with government guidance.

Mazdak Dorosti, who works in banking in Stockholm, said he has worn a mask twice: at an Apple store and the dentist. He said staff gave him a mask both times.

“I see people wearing masks in the metro and shopping malls, but the majority of people don’t wear a mask,” he said.

He said the government’s not recommending masks meant “wearing a mask sent two conflicting messages, either the person was sick or the person was little paranoid.” He suggested that it means people who wanted to wear masks didn’t.

Sweden coronavirus
A resident at a nursing home in Gothenburg gets a coronavirus vaccine on January 7, 2021.

Katarina Eckerberg said she and her family “wear masks in public places such as supermarkets, public transport, shopping centers, but not otherwise.”

“It is not obligatory but recommended and maybe half do, half don’t,” she said.

Cathy Xiao Chen, who helps lead a coworking space in Uppsala, told Insider: “I wear a mask while taking public transport. Some people do, many people don’t.”

“People continue to invade each other’s personal space and ignore social-distancing recommendations,” he said.

‘I feel like I am on another planet’

Sweden’s new mask recommendations appear to have had different effects around the country, but mask-wearers still aren’t at ease.

Dorosti, who lives in Stockholm, said: “People felt more comfortable in wearing a mask, without getting the judgmental looks.”

Meanwhile Begg, who lives in the city’s suburbs, said: “From my observations, I would say between 15 to 20% wear them on public transport.” He said he thinks less than 5% of people wear masks in the supermarket.

“The lack of awareness in Stockholm is quite astounding and would be quite difficult to comprehend for many Europeans where the mask has become an essential accessory,” he said.

Luetz said that the lack of masks means that “sometimes I feel like I am on another planet.”

Rodrigues, who left Sweden in March, said she “started seeing a very slight increase in the amount of people wearing masks” before she moved.

But she said going back to Portugal has proven just how different Sweden was.

“I think back at the time I spent there, being surrounded by hundreds of maskless people at the supermarket for example, and it feels unreal, like a previous life.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

This $329,000 silent electric boat that was inspired by electric eels just debuted in the US

Eelex 8000_12
Eelex 8000.

  • X Shore sells fully electric, silent boats.
  • The two newest models, the Eelex 8000 and the Eelord 6000 were shown in January, and the Eelex 8000 is available in the US today.
  • The more expensive boat costs over $300,000.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

X Shore’s boats don’t necessarily look like eels, but the company says they were inspired by electric South American fish. The $329,000 Eelex 8000 is available in the US beginning March 25.

X Shore started taking orders for electric boats in 2018, and now has two models for sale, the Eelex 8000 and the Eelord 6000. They’re manufactured in Sweden, but can be transported globally. The larger Eelex 6500 and Eeltrek 8000 are also in the works, though not yet for sale.

Electric boats are quieter, and create less emissions than boats powered by fossil fuels. They’re also cheaper, according to X Shore, which says the cost of refueling an electric boat can be as low as one-tenth the cost for fossil fuels. At over $300,000 for the larger boat, X Shore boats seem to be going for the luxury crowd, but they’re smaller crafts than other electric yachts on the market.

See the Eelex 8000 here.

The Eelex 8000 is the most expensive boat currently sold by X Shore, at about $329,000.

Eelex 8000_Palma_
Eelex 8000.

Deck and hull colors are customizable, with three options: moss, sandy, and coffee.

X Shore Eelex 8000 (41)
Eelex 8000.

It weighs about 5,700 pounds, with a width of 8 feet and a length of 26 feet.

Eelex 8000_6
Eelex 8000.

It fully charges in eight hours, or in only one hour on supercharging mode.

Eelex 8000_7
Eelex 8000.

Cruising speed is 24 knots, but it can reach up to 40 knots.

Eelex 8000_8
Eelex 8000.

It has a range of up to 100 nautical miles, depending on travel speed.

Eelex 8000_10
Eelex 8000.

X Shore calls its engine design a “clean and efficient powerhouse.”

Eelex 8000_11
Eelex 8000.

Along with the wheel, controls are on a 24 inch waterproof and glare-proof touch screen.

electric boat X Shore
Eelex 8000.

The boat is powered by lithium ion batteries, which power the single shaft propulsion system.

Eelex 8000_12
Eelex 8000.

Electric power is quieter than fossil fuel powered-boats, and X Shore emphasizes that its boats are silent.

Eelex 8000_4
Eelex 8000.

Quieter craft mean boaters can explore the water without as much harm to the natural environment, or scaring wildlife away.

Eelex 8000_9
Eelex 8000.

Or, as X Shore puts it, “You have become One with Nature.”

Eelex 8000_5
Eelex 8000.

Electric power also means fewer fossil fuel emissions, which can contribute to climate change.

Eelex 8000_3
Eelex 8000.

X Shore credits this care for the natural world with its Swedish heritage, “where people and the sea have lived in harmony for centuries.”

Eelex 8000_2
Eelex 8000.

The minimalist Scandinavian design was inspired by the South American Electric Eel.

Eelex 8000_1
Eelex 8000.

“We modeled our boats after the eel’s robust head and its sleek, streamlined body” X Shore said.

electric eel
Electric eel.

The eel ornament on the boat nods to that inspiration, and also acts as a handle for passengers.

electric boat X Shore
Eelex 8000.

Of course, the eel’s electric abilities also partially inspired the design.

Eelex 8000_1
Eelex 8000.

The Eelex 8000 has a sunroof and roofrack.

Eelex 8000_2
Eelex 8000.

It has two rows of seating, enough for four passengers.

Eelex 8000_4
Eelex 8000.

X Shore offers test drives for interested buyers.

Eelex 8000_details
Eelex 8000.

Read the original article on Business Insider

‘Buy now, pay later’ giant Klarna has tripled its valuation to $31 billion, making it Europe’s most valuable private startup

Klarna CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski in London
Klarna CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski

  • Payments firm Klarna has raised $1 billion in new funding, tripling its valuation to $31 billion.
  • This makes “buy now, pay later” giant Klarna the most valuable private startup in Europe.
  • The new round of funding included a mix of new and existing investors.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Swedish “buy now, pay later” payments company Klarna has nearly tripled its valuation to $31 billion in less than six months, after it announced on Monday a new $1 billion fundraising round.

The new round, which makes Klarna the most valuable European startup, was oversubscribed four times and included a combination of new and existing investors.

The firm completed a $650 million funding round in September from a group of investors led by Silver Lake that valued it at $11 billion.

Klarna also said it would pledge 1% of the capital raised to a newly created initiative that focuses on key sustainability challenges around the world and would launch on April 22 on World Earth Day.

Reuters had reported last week that the company, which competes with PayPal and Australia’s AfterPay, was finalizing another private funding round.

Klarna, which was founded in 2015, has 90 million active consumers and 250,000 merchants on its payments service, according to its website

Payment services such as Klarna that let customers delay payment for online purchases have raised concerns among authorities that young people are falling into debt.

The UK government said February 8 it plans to regulate these kind of services, after a report produced by the financial regulator’s former chief, Christopher Woolard argued that “buy now, pay later” schemes could be “harmful” if left unregulated.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Sweden has U-turned on several of its coronavirus measures and is now facing its first lockdown, warns PM

Stefan Lofven sweden
Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Lofven speaks at a press conference after the parliament adopted a temporary pandemic law on January 8, 2021 in Stockholm, Sweden.

  • Sweden announced a further tightening of measures this week as its COVID-19 cases continue to climb.
  • The country could also be facing its first lockdown, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven warned this week.
  • New infections have prompted Sweden to gradually abandon its unique approach it first adopted.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Lofven warned this week that the country is facing its first lockdown since the start of the pandemic as it seems unable to control its rising coronavirus case numbers.

The country, which famously relied on mostly voluntary measures during the pandemic, has been forced to gradually tighten its distinct approach after it’s seen a rise in cases in the last two weeks.

On Thursday, Sweden reported more than 4,800 new coronavirus cases and 40 deaths – the highest since the beginning of the month, according to a John Hopkins University’s tracker Sweden has recorded more than 659,000 cases since the start of the pandemic.

“We are seeing an increase in cases again, we need to take new measures,” Lofven said at a press briefing on Wednesday, according to Bloomberg. “If the situation gets worse, the government is prepared to enforce a possible lockdown in parts of Sweden. Hopefully, that will not be needed.”

Sweden has been scrambling to get its rising cases under control for several weeks now. In December, the government issued its first recommendation to wear face masks – a topic that was largely taboo in the country.

One month later, Sweden closed its borders with neighboring countries Norway and Denmark and also introduced a law that would allow the government to close restaurants, shops, and public transport to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Measures were tightened even further this week, when Lofven announced that as of March 1, restaurants and cafés which do not serve alcohol will have to close at 8.30 pm and that there will be a limit on the number of people allowed in shops and gyms.

Restaurants in shopping malls will become takeaway only, and amateur sports will also be stopped, Lofven said.

The restrictions come not only as cases continue to rise but also as public health experts have indicated that the country’s health system is now facing the virus’s new variants. 

Anders Tegnell, the architect of Sweden’s initial no-lockdown response, said on Tuesday that it now seemed “almost inevitable” that the more infectious UK variant would become dominant in Sweden, The Telegraph reported. In Stockholm, it is already identified in 27 percent of samples tested.

A day after Sweden announced tweaks to its measures, the prime minister of neighboring Finland declared a three-week coronavirus lockdown starting March 8, which would see all restaurants closed and a maximum of six allowed to gather. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Sweden’s prime minister admits the country got its coronavirus strategy wrong

Stefan Lofven coronavirus sweden
Sweden’s prime minister Stefan Lofven

  • Sweden underestimated the second wave of the coronavirus, prime minister Stefan Lofven admits.
  • The country had predicted that its no-lockdown policy would prevent a second wave of the virus.
  • However, hospitals in Swedish cities are now running out of intensive care beds
  • “I think that most people in the profession didn’t see such a wave in front of them; they talked about different clusters,” Lofven said.
  • The Swedish government is drafting emergency legislation to allow lockdowns and business closures.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Sweden’s prime minister has admitted that the country misjudged its response to the second coronavirus surge, as intensive care units in the capital Stockholm become overwhelmed with patients.

Sweden recorded 8,088 deaths from all causes last month, the country’s statistics agency announced on Monday. This is the country’s second-highest monthly mortality rate on record, behind the Spanish Flu in 1918.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told the Aftonbladet newspaper that. “I think that most people in the profession didn’t see such a wave in front of them; they talked about different clusters.”

“It was not like we were not prepared for something to happen again, but no-one could predict that it would be with this strength,” he said.

“It is proof that it is a virus that we did not know about before, and that behaves in a way many would not have thought.”

Lofven admitted that the government had made mistakes.

“Some conclusions about where we could have been better have already been drawn,” he said.

“Take, for example, elderly care. There we need to do more, and there we increase in the next budget.”

The prime minister’s admission came as an independent report into Sweden’s pandemic response by scientists and crisis management experts in the country concluded that his government has failed to sufficiently protect the elderly.

The Swedish government and its predecessors were ultimately to blame for the failure to protect Sweden’s elderly, the commission said, with the “ultimate responsibility for these shortcomings rests with the government in power – and with the previous governments,” the Guardian reported.

Lofven’s government is gradually shifting away from its resistance to lockdown restrictions and has already imposed a ban on the sale of alcohol after 10 pm and prohibited public gatherings of more than 8 people.

High schools have also been closed for the rest of the term and the government is now drafting emergency legislation that could allow the imposition of lockdowns and business closures, the New York Times reports.

“We need a few weeks of lockdown to get the numbers down,” Tove Fall, Professor in molecular epidemiology at Sweden’s Uppsala University told the New York Times.

“Other countries are taking much higher precautions at lower transmission levels.”

The shift towards a more restrictive approach comes after the country’s predictions that it would avoid a second wave of the virus were proven wrong.

Anders Tegnell, the chief epidemiologist behind Sweden’s no-lockdown approach, said earlier this year that opting against a strict lockdown would help Sweden avoid a second wave of the virus due to widespread population immunity.

However, Sweden has since been hit by a much larger resurgence of the virus than its neighbours.

Sweden recorded 7,667 deaths as a result of the coronavirus on Wednesday morning, far more than any of its neighbours.

Hospitals in Sweden’s cities are now struggling to cope with a sharp rise in the number of new cases, with officials in its capital city warning that intensive care units are already beyond capacity.

“We are far beyond 100% of capacity in intensive care. We are approaching almost double the number of available spaces,” Bjorn Eriksson, a regional health director in Stockholm said on Tuesday, the New York Times reported.

As a result, Sweden’s neighbours, which have all imposed much stricter restrictions on their populations, this week offered emergency medical assistance to the country to help it cope with the surge in hospitalizations.

Read the original article on Business Insider