(This is a translation of a letter to the editor in Dagens Nyheter 23 June 2020)
Mikael Damberg, Minister of the Interior, strains at a gnat but swallows camels. The decision (DN, June 22) that the amusement parks are not allowed open for more than 50 people throughout the summer can possibly be of symbolic value outside Sweden, but cannot be seen as part of a conscious national strategy. E.g. the restriction to 50 people does not apply to beaches and parks (DN, May 22), nor to indoor shopping gallerias. With a strategy of individual responsibility, cafeterias and restaurants can remain open – as long as they are not located inside an amusement park.
The Swedish amusement parks have created detailed plans for safe opening, including virtual queues, extensive hygien routines, as well as requirements that visits be booked in advance, to ensure a drastically limited number of visitors. The amusement parks have routines to manage guest flows, as well as staff who can ensure that guests maintain safe distances. They have vast areas, mostly outdoors, and have been part of an international collaboration generating strategies that now enable Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Tusenfryd in Olso and other parks in the world to open.
Mikael Damberg (DN 22 juni) tells us all to endure. However, enduring is costly for all those who do not enjoy the privilege of a safe monthly salary from tax money, or can perform their work remotely. For many, it involves furlough, the loss of employment or even their life works ruined.
Damberg also states that it may be difficult to argue for “exceptions for one sector”, indicating that the decision is based on a belief that the virus contagiousness depends on the organizational structure, rather than on real risks. There is no evidence anywhere that amusement parks should pose special risks (e.g. GT June 23). The decision is motivated with reference to a regulation – “an unusually blunt application of an unusually blunt law” (Dagens Industri, 8 juni).
We all agree about the need to bring down the spread of Covid-19. In a situation were Sweden has a much higher death rate than neighbouring countries, we understand that the government feels a need to show that it treats the problem seriously. What we don’t understand is their choice of a symbolic action that can be expected to lack effect, but carries a price tag in the GSEK range. At the same time exceptions are made to the regulation about doctors duty to test patients they expect to be contagious,
(Läkartidningen 12 juni). In addition, international recommendations are not followed (DN 23 juni).
Where will teenagers go this summer? Possibly the large shopping gallerias will be their meeting points. The virus does not care about organization. We thus implore authorities and government to reconsider the regulations, to ensure that they don’t strain at a gnat but swallow camels.
Opening the amusement parks may actually be a more responsible decision than keeping them closed!
Ann-Marie Pendrill, Martin Kahnberg, Christopher Karlsson, Marcus Lövstrand, and Rasmus Sjögestam, all members of the European Coaster Club.