Chinese state media slams Sweden as 'first country to harm the world' with 'irresponsible' Covid-19 response

It criticised Sweden's decision to limit testing to vulnerable patients over milder cases.

Kayla Wong | March 15, 2020, 03:23 AM

China has accused Sweden of being the "first country to harm the rest of the world" through its Covid-19 measures.

China says Sweden is "extremely irresponsible"

China's hawkish state media Global Times wrote in a Friday, March 13 op-ed that by choosing to focus on severe cases of Covid-19, and not test patients with mild symptoms for the virus, Sweden is being "extremely irresponsible" not only to the Swedish people, but also to the world.

The anonymous op-ed was carried by Chinese Communist Party's official newspaper People's Daily on Facebook as well.

Sweden to focus on vulnerable groups to reduce pressure on medical resources

According to Euractiv, Swedish authorities are now focusing on the most severe cases that are in need of immediate medical care.

As for patients with milder symptoms, they will not be tested for Covid-19 and will be asked to quarantine themselves at home.

The measures were announced following the European Union's disease control authority's call for member states to save on resources, The Local reported.

As only patients considered to be the most vulnerable, such as those with sever respiratory symptoms, are to be tested for the virus, this means that the country's reported cases will be lower than the actual number of infected cases in total.

Global Times accused Sweden of being the "black hole" of Europe

The Global Times op-ed criticised such measures, accusing Sweden of failing to face the public health crisis head on, and likened such behaviour to being an "ostrich".

It further claimed that should Sweden continue with such measures, the viral outbreak would worsen, resulting in even more severe cases each day, and placing an even heavier burden on the medical system.

It also claimed that by not reporting the total numbers of infected cases in the country, Sweden will become a "black hole" in the worldwide efforts to tackle the viral outbreak, and spread even more cases beyond the Swedish borders.

"Sweden is about to deal Europe and the larger region an immeasurably huge risk", the op-ed read.

"While reported cases in other countries are high in number, the numbers are clear at the very least, but (reported cases in) Sweden is about to become a huge mess."

The Chinese op-ed was not the only place where China highlighted its perceived inadequacy of Sweden's policies in limiting the spread of the virus, instead of completely containing it.

State-owned media China Daily reported in English on Sweden's decision not to close its schools, while highlighting that other European countries, such as Norway and Denmark, did so.

More than 900 infected in Sweden

Sweden's Public Health Agency reported a total of 924 confirmed cases as of Saturday, March 14.

Two people have died from the virus in the country.

In contrast, new infections in China have dropped to single digit tallies, with the area outside of Hubei province registering zero new cases for seven days straight recently.

What's the beef between China and Sweden?

This is not the first time that China has lashed out at Sweden.

Previously, relations between both countries reached a new low towards the end of 2019 due to a disagreement over the Chinese authorities' imprisonment of Chinese-born Swedish citizen Gui Minhai, who was a bookseller based in Hong Kong.

Commenters agree with the op-ed

Most commenters agreed with the op-ed, and were appalled at the way Sweden is dealing with the pandemic.

They also felt that the Chinese government's measures were way more effective in comparison when it comes to curbing the spread of the virus.

Some of them even mocked the western liberal democratic political system, and praised the Chinese model.

Screengrab via People's Daily/Facebook

"The whole world should ban the Swedes from entering their countries, and forbid their own citizens from going to Sweden."

Screengrab via People's Daily/Facebook

"Those so-called human rights, freedom, are all heading in the wrong direction. These people completely lack self-restraint, how can they govern themselves. Just like Italy, where there is already widespread infections, and people are protesting about not wanting to wear face masks. Those who accused the Chinese of travelling everywhere irresponsibly should now be scolding these westerners instead. The Chinese who travelled elsewhere did so as they did not know how serious the spread of the virus was, nor did they know they were infected. But what are these westerners doing now? Do they not know the severity of the virus? I really hope that all countries can be as strict as Singapore, simply arrest those who fail to follow quarantine rules."

Screengrab via People's Daily/Facebook

"Sweden just does not have enough resources to deal with the pandemic, they could only treat the pain where it hurts. To abandon the majority of the people's interests, and not take into account the dangers to their health, will cause  a big outbreak in other countries. With modern transportation tools, massive movements of people are unavoidable, but how many Covid-19 carriers will unknowingly infect others? The hard work that China put in and all the sacrifices it made have gone down the drain now."

Screengrab via People's Daily/Facebook

"Lock the country down! We want to protect the Chinese people, continue our 5,000 years of civilisation, and take over the world."

Screengrab via People's Daily/Facebook

"Perhaps this is also a sort of natural selection."

Screengrab via People's Daily/Facebook

"The viral outbreak this time has made me realise China is not only strong, it also respects life. United as one, our humanity shines through. I'm blessed to have the motherland here!"

Screengrab via People's Daily/Facebook

"Western countries are most suited to use human rights to treat diseases."

China: Covid-19 did not originate in China

Chinese officials have begun pushing out the narrative that the virus did not originate in China, despite not having concrete evidence to back up the claim.

Renowned Chinese respiratory expert Zhong Nanshan holds the same view as well, saying on Feb. 27 that although the Covid-19 was first discovered in China, it "does not mean that it originated from China".

The Chinese embassy in Canberra, Australia, had also sent an email to foreign journalists reporting on the viral outbreak, which "suggested journalists are politicising the coronavirus by suggesting it originated in China".

China: Chinese response bought time for other countries

In addition, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed that the country's "endeavour to combat the epidemic has brought time for international preparedness", adding that its contribution is "there for all to see".

Such a narrative was even repeated outside of China, with an economist at Harvard University saying that China "really did great work in buying the rest of us time".

These narratives can be seen as China pushing back at earlier media reports that revealed its attempts to cover up the reality on the ground when the virus was first discovered by doctors in late 2019, as well as the failure to take quick action due to its rigid hierarchical bureaucracy.

Chinese President Xi Jinping had earlier urged local media on Feb. 3 to cover the viral outbreak in a "responsible" manner.

Top image via People’s Daily/Facebook