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Anger after Swedish official breaks his own agency's COVID guidelines by flying to Canary Islands

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Dan Eliassontold Swedish media that the trip was necessary "for family reasons".
Dan Eliassontold Swedish media that the trip was necessary "for family reasons".   -   Copyright  Pontus Lundahl/TT via AP
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A senior government official in Sweden has been criticised after going against his own agency's COVID-19 recommendations and travelling to the Canary Islands over Christmas.

Dan Eliasson, director-general of Sweden's Civil Contingencies Agency, had been heavily involved in the country's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier in December, the agency sent a text to all Swedish citizens, urging them to avoid travel abroad during the Christmas holidays.

But Eliasson was then photographed several times in Spain's Gran Canaria, including inside Las Palmas airport.

When questioned by Swedish media, the director-general said he had already "given up a lot of travelling during the pandemic", and wanted to spend Christmas with his daughter, who lives in the Canary Islands.

"I celebrated Christmas with her and my family," Eliasson told the Expressen newspaper, adding that he had worked remotely during the trip.

"I made the assessment that the trip is necessary".

In a further statement to Euronews, Sweden's Civil Contingencies Agency confirmed that their director-general had celebrated Christmas with his family on the Canary Islands.

"While his daughter has been living and working in the Canary Islands for some time, Dan Eliasson considers the trip to the Canary Islands to be of personal importance," a spokesperson said.

A number of political commentators and social media users have called for Eliasson to resign, following the controversy.

Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and other ministers have not yet commented.

Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg seemingly mocked the director-general's statements in a tweet, alongside a photo of her sailing trip across the Atlantic Ocean in 2019.

"I have given up a lot of air travel during this climate crisis, but I thought this trip was necessary," tweeted Greta Thunberg on Saturday.

At a press conference on December 8, Prime Minister Löfven recommended that Swedish citizens not travel unless absolutely necessary, due to the spread of COVID-19.

The PM, as well as Justice Minister Morgan Johansson, have also generated criticism after they were photographed visiting shopping centres in December, despite the government's advice not to.

Sweden has registered more than 437,000 cases and more than 8,700 deaths since the pandemic began, while never imposing a national lockdown.

But following a recent increase in infections, the government last month urged citizens to observe a new series of measures, including avoiding holidays abroad.