Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf has said the country has "failed" to save lives during the coronavirus pandemic, seen as a rare comment from the monarch who normally refrains from commenting on political issues.
The Scandinavian country is struggling to contain a second wave of Covid-19, with new cases rising since mid-October.
"I believe we have failed," King Carl XVI Gustaf told broadcaster SVT in an interview for a programme summing up the year.
"We have a large number that have died and that is terrible," he added.
Some commentators took the remarks as a rebuke of Sweden's controversial coronavirus strategy, which has most relied on non-coercive measures.
The king has largely ceremonial powers and does not typically comment on political issues.
Questioned by the AFP news agency, the Swedish Royal Court however stressed that the comments should not be taken as a comment on the strategy and were "unpolitical".
"The king is referring to the whole of Sweden and the whole society. What the king is doing is showing empathy for all those affected in different ways and also those who have died in the pandemic," Margareta Thorgren, head of information at the court, said.
The comment comes at a time when the Swedish strategy is again under scrutiny as a difficult second wave has seen both the number of new cases and deaths surging.
Asked about the king's comment, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said they only affirmed what the government had already conceded.
"Of course the fact that so many have died, can't be considered as anything other than a failure," Mr Lofven told reporters.
But for the strategy as a whole he said that "it's when we are through the pandemic that the real conclusions can be drawn," adding that they had already acknowledged shortcomings in elderly care.
Mr Lofven also stressed that it was difficult to know what the king was referring to exactly as the question he was asked was not shown in the snippet of the interview that was published.
The country of some 10.3 million people has recorded a total of 7,893 deaths associated with Covid-19 – more than 1,900 of those since the start of November.
It also saw that number of hospitalisations pass 2,500, topping the peak recorded in April.