Sweden royals hold church service for COVID-19 victims

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STOCKHOLM (AP) — Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf and his wife Queen Silvia held a church ceremony Thursday to honor the victims of the coronavirus.

The memorial service was held at the chapel of the Drottningholm Palace, just outside Stockholm, on the one-year anniversary of the first death of the pandemic in the Scandinavian nation.

The royal couple participated, but Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel could not attend as they both tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the day.

The royal court said in a statement that the Crown Princess and her husband have mild symptoms and “are feeling well considering the circumstances.”

Sweden has stood out for its comparatively mild response to the pandemic. The country avoided lockdowns and relied instead on citizens’ sense of civic duty to control infections.

As of Thursday, more than 13,100 people had died of COVID-19 in the country, far more per capita than in Sweden's neighbors but fewer than in other European countries that did implement strict lockdowns or curfews.

The monarch -- Sweden’s head of state whose role is purely ceremonial and who has no political power -- said in December that he believes his country had failed to protect the elderly in care homes from the effects of the pandemic.

His comments followed the conclusions by an independent commission that looked into Sweden’s handling of the pandemic. It said that elderly care in Sweden has major structural shortcomings and authorities have proved unprepared and ill-equipped to meet the pandemic.

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Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at

https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak