The Prime Minister of Sweden has issued a stark warning to his citizens, telling them to prepare for innumerable deaths following the country's laid back attitude to Covid-19.
Stefan Löfven's grim message came after some 2,300 doctors and academics hurled criticism at Sweden for not taking the pandemic seriously - barely tightening up preventative methods.
Social Democrat Löfven warned citizens to prepare for thousands of deaths.
To the amazement of many European countries, who have for the most part enforced lockdowns and social distancing measures, life in Sweden has been permitted to go on with relative normality.
Many bars, eateries, schools and office buildings have remained open, with groups of up 500 people being permissible.
Only the most vulnerable citizens have been encouraged to self-isolate at home.
The government-backed Public Health Agency of Sweden contends that Swedes have enough common sense to practice social distancing of their own volition, adding that such restrictions should be light enough to be maintained for several months.
However, as Sweden's death toll topped 401, and with 6,830 confirmed infections, the tone has shifted.
Last week, the head of the Nobel foundation Carl-Henrik Heldin was among well over 2,000 physicians and academics who penned an open letter urging Sweden to shape up.
Some even demanded Stockholm, the capital, be locked down after some 50 senior citizens perished in care homes from the virus.
Since then, Löfven has warned although the pandemic's hold on Sweden was slower than in other countries hard-hit, like Italy and Spain, it did not necessarily mean fewer deaths.
'We will have more seriously ill people who need intensive care,' he said to Dagens Nyheter. 'We are facing thousands of deaths. We need to prepare for that.'
However, he appeared to play down Sweden's approach when compared with other states, claiming Sweden also wanted to unburden its hospitals.
'I don't think you ought to dramatise [the differences],' he said. 'We're doing it in a different way. Sometimes that is because we are in difference phases [of the pandemic].'
There are however signs the tide is turning.
Sizes of gatherings have been hacked down from 499 to 49, and bars and eateries have been instructed only to offer table service.
Whereas some institutions, such as the Abba museum, closed of their own volition.
One professor of endocrinology at the Karolinska Institute, Olle Kampe, claimed the government had 'cynically' permitted the virus to spread in hopes of reaching herd immunity.
But, Anders Tegnell, Sweden's chief epidemiologist heading up a coronavirus strategy, said: 'We think we've already taken the most important measures.
'Stay home if you feel ill; work from home if you can; and ensure that we protect our older fellow citizens. You could alter other rules, such as those governing trips to the restaurant or gatherings, but you get the best effect when everyone simply sticks to the basic code of conduct.'
Associate professor of political science at Sodertorn University in Stockholm, Nicholas Aylott, chimed in saying Sweden's strategy had been in part rooted in a national 'exceptionalism' - a younger and healthier population than other European countries.
Power between Sweden's politicians and its civil service is also a factor, with ministers outlining policy and experts deciding how it should be delivered, meaning Sweden's Covid-19 strategy was directed by Tegnell rather Lofven.
'Who is right? Have Sweden's neighbours overreacted?' Dr Aylott blogged. 'Or has Sweden under-reacted? No one can tell — yet. There is no guarantee that insulation from politics will bring better outcomes.'
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.