By Adam Vaughan
Greta Thunberg says she and her father, Swedish actor Svante Thunberg, appear to have been infected by the coronavirus.
In an interview with New Scientist, the climate change campaigner said they had both experienced some symptoms of covid-19 after a recent train tour of Europe together. The pair were travelling before restrictions were imposed in several countries.
However, she stressed that neither of them have been tested for the virus, as Sweden is only testing people with the most severe symptoms and those in at-risk groups.
“I came home from central Europe and then I isolated myself from the beginning, because I thought I might as well, as I’ve been on trains and so I don’t want to put anyone else at risk,” she said. “But I started feeling some symptoms after a few days. At the same time, my father was feeling much more intense symptoms.”
The 17-year-old said she wants to tell people how easy it is to transmit the disease without knowing you have it. Researchers have found that many cases globally have been asymptomatic.
“The important thing is, I didn’t basically feel that I was ill. It could be that I was feeling unusually tired, I was coughing a bit,” she said. “That also is very dangerous because you don’t know you have it. If I wouldn’t have been for my father getting it at the same time and much more intense than me, I might not even have noticed it, that I was sick.”
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She said it is a reminder of why it is important for people to follow the social-distancing measures imposed by governments. “That is something I want to communicate, that many people don’t feel symptoms at all, or very mild symptoms, but it can still be contagious. So you have to really practice social distancing whether you feel ill or not,” she says.
While neither she nor her father have been tested because of Sweden’s approach, Thunberg said it would be surprising if it isn’t covid-19. “So of course I’m not 100 per cent sure I have got it. But it would have been very strange if it would have been something else, because it just fits very [well]. Especially my father’s reaction, it’s exactly fitting with the symptoms.”
Thunberg, who started her school strike outside the Swedish parliament in August 2018 to demand far more ambitious action on climate change from the country’s government, took part in her 83rd strike last week. The movement behind the walkouts, Fridays for Future, has told strikers to conduct protests virtually due to the pandemic, which Thunberg said was a collective decision taken at an emergency remote meeting.
Thunberg is pleased with how strikers responded to the call to stay off the streets. “I think people have been very good at that within the movement, respecting each other and people in risk groups. Even though we are young and are not primarily the ones targeted by this virus, we still stand in solidarity with those in risk groups, and I think that is a very beautiful thing.”
Thunberg said the pandemic and climate emergency shouldn’t be compared, because both of them need to handled together. “One does not outrule the other,” she said.
However, she added: “The corona[virus] crisis really shows that our current societies are unsustainable. If one virus can wipe out the entire economy in a matter of weeks and shut down societies, then that is a proof that our societies are not very resilient. It also shows that once we are in an emergency, we can act and we can change our behaviour quickly. And as long as we have solidarity and common sense, we will get through any crisis.”
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