Swedish city to spread chicken manure in park to prevent festival gathering

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Thousands of people in Lund usually hold picnics and light bonfires in huge crowds to mark Walpurgis Night

World | The Independent

A Swedish city is to spread a tonne of chicken manure across its central park in an attempt to deter people from gathering for a traditional festival, as the country continues in its unconventional efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Thousands of people in Lund, home to one of Sweden’s biggest universities, usually hold picnics and light bonfires in huge crowds to mark Walpurgis Night – which is widely celebrated across central and northern Europe on 30 April.

While the Swedish government has opted against enforcing a nationwide lockdown – one of the few countries to do – local authorities in Lund have taken measures into their own hands to prevent a possible outbreak in the city.

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“Lund could very well become an epicentre for the spread of the coronavirus on the last night in April, [so] I think it was a good initiative,” the chairman of the local council’s environment committee, Gustav Lundblad, told the Sydsvenskan newspaper.

“We get the opportunity to fertilise the lawns, and at the same time it will stink and so it may not be so nice to sit and drink beer in the park,” Lundblad said.

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“I am not a fertiliser expert, but as I understand it, it is clear that it might smell a bit outside the park as well. These are chicken droppings, after all. I cannot guarantee that the rest of the city will be odourless. But the point is to keep people out of the city park.”

Reflecting on the upside of spreading chicken manure, Philip Sandberg, the leader of council, said it “will be good for the lawns” as it “contains a lot of phosphorus and nitrogen”. He added: “So we’ll get a really nice park for the summer.”

Citizens across Sweden have been asked to skip Walpurgis Night, the origins of which date back to pagan celebrations of spring.

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Although the festivities are classed as spontaneous, the government has banned gatherings of more than 50 people as part of its response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

This is one of the few strict measures enforced by the country, having adopted a soft approach that bucks the European trend.

While Nordic neighbours such as Denmark and Norway enacted early lockdowns, Sweden’s primary schools, shops, restaurants and bars remain open, with people allowed to go out and exercise.

Citizens have been trusted to behave “as adults”, in the words of prime minister Stefan Löfven, by keeping their distance and acting in a responsible manner when out in public.

To date, Sweden has reported 20,302 cases and 2,462 deaths from coronavirus.

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