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Top Swedish official offers to quit after backlash over Christmas trip

PUBLISHED: Wed, 06 Jan 2021 16:21:29 GMT

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STOCKHOLM, Jan 6 (Reuters) – A top Swedish government official closely involved in the country’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic offered to resign on Wednesday, after a public outcry over his Christmas vacation on Spain’s Canary Islands.

Dan Eliasson, head of the Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), the body responsible for the management of emergencies and public safety, has asked the government to transfer him out of his job, the MSB said in a statement.

Sweden has been reluctant to enforce lockdown measures during the pandemic, but as cases and deaths hit record levels in December, the government issued its toughest measures yet and implored the public to limit their travel in the holiday season.

“MSB as an authority should have the best possible conditions to carry out its important assignment. That is why today I have requested a transfer to leave the position,” Eliasson said in statement on MSB’s website.

Eliasson on Saturday defended his trip to the sunny archipelago off the northwest coast of Africa, saying that he wanted to visit his daughter who lived on the islands and that he had previously given up many opportunities to travel due to the pandemic.

He is not the only government figure to fall foul of the country’s own guidance during the holiday period.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven and Justice Minister Morgan Johansson were forced to apologise after both were spotted – and in Lofven’s case photographed – on trips to shopping malls over Christmas.

Although the incidents do not break the law, they have angered many Swedes, whom the government has repeatedly asked to maintain high standards of personal responsibility during the holidays.

Sweden’s death rate per capita is several times higher than that of its Nordic neighbours but lower than that of several European countries that imposed lockdowns. (Reporting by Colm Fulton; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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