RELATED STORY: Coronavirus in Norway: The Latest News on the COVID-19 Outbreak Aside from major events, Norwegian life is now mostly back to ‘normal’. After essentially being closed to non-residents for more than three months, Norway’s border is now back open to most European residents, with some major exceptions.
As most of the world either orders or recommends the use of face masks, with even US president Donald Trump seen wearing one, Nordic nations are the remaining holdouts.
In supermarkets, on buses, and along the streets of capitals — such as Stockholm, Copenhagen, Oslo, Helsinki and Reykjavik — face masks are a rare sight, worn only by a small minority, many of who are tourists.
According to a recent survey by YouGov, only five to 10 percent of respondents in the Nordic countries said they used a mask in public settings, a figure that has remained stable since the start of the crisis in March.
At the same time, the corresponding figures have risen to between 70 and 80 percent for most of the other 20 countries polled, including India and the United States.
“I have the impression that if the government doesn’t say clearly ‘we advise you to wear a mask’, nobody will,” 21-year-old French student Camille Fornaroli told AFP, adding she was shocked to see how rare masks were in Stockholm.
– Following recommendations –
Birgitta Wedel, a 63-year-old pensioner, told AFP she would have preferred if Sweden’s authorities recommended masks, at least on public transport.
But she added that she would keep going without one unless there was a shift in official policy.
“If they don’t… I will not wear it because nobody else does,” Wedel said.
Marten Sporrong, a 50-year-old businessman, also said he would follow government recommendations: “If they tell us we don’t need masks, we won’t wear them”.
Sweden has received global attention for its softer approach to curbing the spread of the virus which, coupled with a relatively higher death toll, has led to the region’s largest country being shunned by its neighbours.
But when it comes to masks, the Nordic nations look staunchly united.
“Except for Sweden, there are very few cases in those countries,” KK Cheng, an epidemiologist at the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Applied Health Research told AFP.