Sweden's king said his country had failed in its handling of COVID-19, in a criticism of a pandemic policy partly blamed for a high death toll among the elderly.
In an excerpt from an annual royal Christmas TV special, Carl XVI Gustaf highlighted the growing impact of the virus -- a rare intervention from a monarch whose duties are largely ceremonial.
(SOUNDBITE) (Swedish) SWEDEN'S KING CARL GUSTAF SAYING:
"It's simply, I think that we have failed. Many people have died and that is horrible. That is something we can all sympathize with - that we haven't been able to help them and it is very sad, terribly sad."
The king’s son and daughter-in-law tested positive last month.
Sweden has been an outlier in its national pandemic response, relying mainly on voluntary social distancing and hygiene recommendations to slow the spread, while shunning lockdowns and face masks, and leaving schools, restaurants and businesses largely open.
The government's response to the pandemic was widely supported by Swedes in the spring, as they carried on much as normal while most of Europe entered lockdown.
But the rising death toll - particularly among elderly residents of care homes - has drawn increasing criticism.