Swedish prosecutor to probe deaths at Stockholm care home amid virus outbreak

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Swedish prosecutors said on Friday they would start a preliminary investigation into a care home in the Stockholm area where a large number of elderly residents have died during the recent outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

The pandemic has hit the country’s elderly care homes hard, not least in the capital Stockholm, where staff at hospitals and nursing homes have publicly warned of a lack of protective equipment such as masks.

Visits to care homes for the elderly have been banned since April 1 under Sweden’s lockdown, which has not been as stringent as in many other countries.

The preliminary investigation into the Berga care home in Solna concerns several cases of violation of the Work Environment Act, the Prosecution Authority said in a statement.

“There is information about a high death rate among the residents, that several of the staff have been infected by COVID-19 and that basic care routines have not been followed,” it said.

On April 29, Swedish radio Ekot reported that around a quarter of the care home’s residents had died between mid-March and mid-April.

Sakarias Mardh, CEO of A&O which runs the Berga care home, told Ekot that there had been deaths from COVID-19 at Berga and that every case was tragic, but declined to comment on or confirm the death toll.

While Sweden has not had a complete lockdown, gatherings of more than 50 people have been banned, high schools and universities are teaching online and people have been told not to take unnecessary trips.

The country’s coronavirus death toll reached 3,040 on Thursday, while almost 25,000 cases have been confirmed.

Reporting by Helena Soderpalm; Editing by Simon Johnson and Philippa Fletcher