Everyday life in Sweden has been drastically different for several weeks now. The effects of the coronavirus on our society has been apparent to everybody. For the European CBRNE Center’s member organizations day-to-day operations have changed, as for many other work places around the country. In addition to changes in the daily procedures, these organizations are doing important work to keep society moving through the crisis.
Text: Åsa Burlin; Lisa Hermansson
Umeå University, where the European CBRNE Center is located, followed government recommendations and closed campus for students on March 18th. Several staff members are now working from home and teaching is done remotely. The university is also largely involved in the community’s response to the pandemic.
The new science center, Curiosum, is currently producing protective visors for healthcare staff, which is in high demand due to the pandemic. Another hot commodity is hand sanitizer, and since the government recently altered the restrictions regarding production, the Department of Chemistry is now making hand sanitizer for the University Hospital. Something that’s been widely recognized is the development of a new software framework that is being developed by a team of researchers coordinated by Umeå University. The idea is to use the tool, which can explore different ways the virus might spread, as an aid for decision makers as they have to consider multiple factors when society is suffering through a crisis. The university has recently started the first clinical study of COVID-19 to learn more about the course of the disease, its properties and mapping immunization. The study is a collaborative effort by researchers from multiple fields.
Västerbotten County Council is responsible for healthcare in the region and in the epicenter of the corona crisis. There is currently no shortage of intensive care beds and healthcare workers are doing everything they can to stay on top and keep operations running as close to normal as possible given the circumstances. The County Council is also responsible for the regional development in the county and is the second largest employer in the area. “The current pandemic has forced our organization to redirect and re-prioritize. We see how COVID-19 has serious consequences for residents, companies, and culture in Västerbotten. At the same time I can tell that the regional development is continuing to move forward and we are many working together for the best of the county. I am proud to represent an organization where we take on challenges with sincerity and professionalism, while we continue to look for opportunities.” Says Anna Pettersson, Director of Regional Development at Västerbotten County Council.
The Swedish Research Agency (FOI) in Umeå has been supporting Västerbotten’s County Council with clinical testing since Easter. FOI can currently process around 200 tests detecting SARS-CoV-2 per day. They are also able to examine if and how the virus is mutating, which is important in determining how society should best handle the spread of the virus. FOI is also involved with testing protective gear. All work and support performed by FOI in regards to the pandemic is directed through The Public Health Authority, National Board of Health and Welfare, and the Civil Contingency Agency (MSB). Staff at FOI are also affected by the new directives in the same way as many others where people are directed to work from home if feasible, and stay home if they show any symptoms.
The Swedish Armed Forces in Umeå are experts on protection against biological weapons and organized an exercise in January where laboratories and staff where moved from Umeå to Uppsala to be ready for service. The idea was to quickly develop methods for analyzing tests of suspected COVID-19 patients. The exercise was carried out in collaboration with the Public Health Authority and Uppsala University Hospital for an MSB funded project. Within 24 hours, a method for analysis was confirmed. In parallel tests it was shown that the mobile lab could support the hospital in case of a situation where large amounts of tests need to be processed. In addition to the January exercise, the Armed Forces has delivered protective gear to the regions of Västernorrland, Västerbotten, and Jämtland Härjedalen.
The Swedish Fortification Agency has made adjustments in their planning to allow for sudden changes in needs for their customers, partners, and tenants. Many activities, primarily for the Armed Forces has been rescheduled and the Fortification Agency are being perceptive and flexible in order to still contribute to an increased defence ability and interventions for a society in need.
The corona crisis has had a large impact on business. Umeå Municipality is working hard to come up with different initiatives and solutions to ease the negative consequences. Företagsakuten started in March and is a support service for affected businesses. The idea is to increase awareness of what options are available and how to access services. The initiative will also help spread the know-how available within the region and local business advisors. Companies can get assistance with action plans, budgets, staff, etc. and don’t need to be members of Företagarna to receive help. The municipality has moved up the application date for restaurants to open up outside seating. Various support to the elderly and those in risk groups is being offered. Rural grocery stores are being offered financial support to deliver goods to rural residents. As of April 1 a no visitor policy in being enforced in all elderly care facilities in the municipality. Umeå municipality has also produced a support package for club activities in the area.