Coronavirus: the Nordic countries, very rare islands without a mask in the world

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Stockholm | Even Donald Trump ended up putting it on, and its use is spreading across the world: yet the authorities of the Nordic countries (Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland), like their more than 25 million inhabitants, continue to the time to shun the mask to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the streets of Stockholm, Copenhagen, Oslo or Helsinki, or even in supermarkets, offices, buses and subways, it is difficult to find wearers of masks, who are limited to a tiny minority, often tourists.

According to a recent Yougov opinion poll, only 5 to 10% of respondents in the Nordic countries said they used a mask against Covid-19 in public places, a proportion that has remained absolutely stable since the start of the crisis in March. At the same time, this share of users soared beyond 70 or even 80% in the twenty or so other countries monitored by the polling institute, from India to the United States via France. .

“I have the impression that if the government does not clearly say + we advise you to wear a mask +, nobody will do it,” said Camille Fornaroli, a 21-year-old French student shocked to see so few masks in Stockholm, including in the metro.

– Follow the instructions -For Birgitta Wedel, a 63-year-old retiree, “it would be good if the Swedish authorities advised the wearing of a mask, at least in transport. But I will not wear one if I am the only one, I am waiting for the authorities to take an official decision ”.

“The Swedes take their responsibilities,” says Marten Sporrong, a 50-year-old businessman, despite the epidemic still very active in Stockholm. “But we follow the government recommendations, if they tell us that we do not need a mask, we will not put on,” he told AFP.

Faced with the coronavirus, Sweden had chosen a less strict strategy, which left its neighbors skeptical about its toll (more than 80,000 cases and 5,700 deaths). But in the refusal to recommend the wearing of masks, the Nordic countries were unanimous, even if questions have emerged in recent days.

“Outside of Sweden, there have been very few cases in these countries. So I don’t throw stones at them, as long as they’ve had reasonable social distancing and the case tracing is done properly. But it would be a good thing to do as well, ”KK Cheng, an epidemiologist at the Birmingham Institute for Applied Health Research, told AFP.

Asked on Tuesday what could make him change his mind, Swedish chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell replied that he was still awaiting “some form of proof that they are effective”.

Not enough proof of effectiveness? “It is absolutely false, it is irresponsible and stubborn,” Mr. Cheng annoys. “If those who think like him are wrong, it costs lives. But if I’m wrong, what damage does it do? ”Pleads this supporter of wearing a mask.


In Denmark, the health authority timidly recommended the mask in early July after an opinion from the WHO. But in very limited cases, especially when you are going to be tested in hospital or in transport back from a risk area.

“At the moment, the mask does not make sense,” said Sundhedsstyrelsen manager Soren Brostrom on Tuesday. “But in the longer term, can this be useful in transport or otherwise? We must of course evaluate it, ”he told Danish television DR.

Same line in Norway or Finland: no opposition in principle, we are assured. “Currently, we are in a very lucky situation (…) But it is perhaps something that we will have to consider in the near future if the contamination increases”, declared to AFP, Are Stuwitz Berg , doctor at the Norwegian health authority FHI.

“The question could arise at the start of the school year when people come back from vacation,” said Mika Salminen, an official at the Finnish authority THL.

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