A person waring a protective mask collects coronavirus self tests from people in cars at a testing site in the car park of Svagertorp railway station, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Malmo, Sweden, Nov 27, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

STOCKHOLM – Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf has criticized the Swedish government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, Swedish Television reported on Thursday.

“I believe we have failed. We have a high number of deaths and that is terrible,” the king said in an annual review known as “the year with the Swedish Royal Family”, which will be broadcast on Swedish Television next week.

“It’s been an awful year,” the king said in the program, recalling “the grief and the frustration among many families and also many business owners who are on their knees and may lose their companies”.

“The Swedish people have suffered enormously under difficult circumstances,” he said.

His son Prince Carl Philip and daughter-in-law Princess Sofia tested positive for COVID-19 last month after displaying flu-like symptoms.

The King also said he felt for the families who were unable to say farewell to their dying relatives, calling the experience “heavy and traumatic”.

Asked for his response to the king’s statement, Sweden’s state epidemiologist at the Public Health Agency Anders Tegnell said he had “no comment”.

“It is deeply regrettable that many people have died but whether or not we have failed is a question. I will have to leave to those who will review all of this in the future,” Tegnell said Thursday at a press conference.

Swedish Television published the extract from its forthcoming royal review program just two days after the government-appointed “corona commission” issued a harsh verdict against Sweden’s inadequate efforts to protect the elderly. Nearly half of the country’s COVID-19 deaths have occurred in care homes.

At a press conference on Thursday, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven conceded that the elderly care system lacked resources in response to the pandemic and said that Sweden will start vaccinating high-risk groups some time between Dec 27 and Dec 29.

As of Thursday, Sweden registered 357,466 COVID-19 cases, with the death toll reaching 7,893, while 3,691 patients have been admitted to ICUs throughout the pandemic in the country, according to the Public Health Agency.