Immigrants from Somalia and some parts of the Middle East are heavily over-represented among those infected by COVID-19 in Sweden, according to the Public Health Authority.
During its recent press conference, the agency said that this particularly applied to Somalis, but also immigrants from Iraq, Syria, Finland, Turkey, Iran, the former Yugoslavia, and Eritrea.
“We have an over-representation of people born abroad”, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said, singling out those with Somalia and Iraq as the country of origin.
According to Tegnell, congestion in the immigrant-dominated suburbs may be a possible explanation. Another one is their adverse socio-economic background. In the case of COVID-19 patients from Finland and the former Yugoslavia, the over-representation is considered to depend on their advanced age.
The very same day, the city of Helsinki sounded the alarm about a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases among its Somali diaspora. Some 200 cases have been detected among a Somali population of about 1,000 in Helsinki. This accounts for 1.8 percent of Helsinki's Somali population, as opposed to 0.2 percent of its Finnish population, national broadcaster Yle reported.
Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori called the recent spread of infection among minority-language groups “very disconcerting”. He stressed that the situation necessitates cooperation between different stakeholders, to promote further development of multilingual services and effective communication, emphasising that the city council is currently in talks with the Finnish Somali League to improve the situation.
The city has also added nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals representing language minorities to the teams tracing infections in an effort to pinpoint the reasons behind the uptick.
Helsinki city councillor Suldaan Said Ahmed of the Left Alliance ascribed the spike to class differences.
“Many Somali-background people work in low-wage jobs as salespersons, cleaners, bus drivers, nurses, and so on. They don't have the option that others have to work remotely”, Said Ahmed told Yle.
Earlier this month, a drastic over-representation of Somalis was reported even in Norway. As was reported, almost one in four hospitalised immigrants in Norway was Somali, despite the diaspora there constituting only 0.8 percent of the Norwegian population. This has been attributed to cramped living conditions, poor knowledge of the Norwegian language, and a lack of targeted information campaigns.
Sweden has seen a total of 11,445 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,033 fatalities. Finland has 3,161 and 59 respectively, whereas Norway has 6,696 and 139.