Sweden’s king has made a rare public intervention to decry his country’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Carl XVI Gustaf said his country's hands-off strategy had failed as deaths continue to mount.
"I believe we have failed," the king told a Christmas programme broadcast by SVT.
“We have had a large number of deaths and that is terrible. That is something that brings us all suffering."
As with many European monarchs, the king’s role is largely ceremonial. His comments are therefore a highly unusual rebuke of those in charge.
The country famously shunned lockdowns and face masks, leaving schools, restaurants and shops open as authorities appealed for Swedes to practise good hygiene.
Sweden has registered more than 7,000 deaths, a much higher death toll than its Nordic neighbours.
An inquiry on Wednesday found that the government failed to protect the elderly as the virus ripped through care homes.
“You think of all the family members who have not been able to say goodbye to their deceased family members,” the king said.
“I think it is a heavy and traumatic experience not to be able to say a warm goodbye.”
Meanwhile, Germany reported record new infections of more than 30,000 on Thursday.
The initial daily total of 26,923 was set to be revised upward by more than 3,500 additional cases due to a delay in reporting, the Robert Koch Institute said.
The country is currently in a strict lockdown that may last beyond next month.
Denmark will become the next European country to go into lockdown from next week, as authorities fear a steep rise in infections over the winter months.
Elsewhere, the Netherlands reported a record 13,000 new cases days after entering a five-week lockdown.
The fresh lockdowns come as Europe solidifies its plans to distribute vaccines.
EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said that the continent would begin vaccinating against the disease on December 27, 28 and 29.
The European Medical Agency will decide whether to approve the vaccine next Monday.
“This is Europe’s moment,” Ms von der Leyen tweeted.
The EU is racing to catch up with the UK, which has already vaccinated more than 137,000 people.
Despite that, millions more Britons face the toughest coronavirus restrictions after a surge in cases.
From Saturday, 38 million people – 68 per cent of the English population – will be in the highest Tier 3.
"We've come so far, we mustn't blow it now,” UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.