It's a grim time of year to be living in Sweden.
Winter days are typically short in Scandinavia, but Stockholm was so dark in early December that through the first 10 days it had yet to log a single hour of sunlight, according to the country's meteorological institute.
At this time of year the sun only rises above the horizon for about six hours a day in the Swedish capital, but during December it was especially gloomy.
On one day, the sun rose at 8.33am and set again just after 2pm, according to AFP. During that day, it was covered by thick clouds.
The atmosphere outdoors is a mirror to the bleak situation the country is facing during a spike in cases it hoped to avoid by taking its own unique course through the Covid-19 pandemic – a course we now know was doomed to fail from the beginning.
In mid-December, it was revealed that Sweden had not only failed to defeat the virus through its herd-immunity strategy – a strategy that divided leaders around the world – but that its healthcare system was being crippled by a surge in patient numbers.
According to Bloomberg, Sweden is currently facing a shortage of healthcare workers and being forced to consider outside help from its neighbours in Finland.
Sineva Ribeiro, the chairwoman of the Swedish Association of Health Professionals, said the situation is "terrible".
And Stockholm County Mayor Irene Svenonius called it "extremely tense".
"There's fatigue. You can't ignore that, so it's extremely important to get more people," she said.
Finland offered to free up space in its hospitals for ICU patients from Sweden but there was no deal struck immediately.
Sweden already has one of the highest death rates in Europe. Of its 10 million people, around 8300 had died from Covid-19 by late December.
Stockholm's healthcare director Bjorn Eriksson said: "This is exactly the development we didn't want to see.
"It shows that we Stockholmers have crowded too much, and have had too much contact outside of the households we live in."
The nation's casual response included leaving Swedes to determine for themselves whether they should wear masks or socially distance.
It was in keeping with the country's relaxed approach where strict rules are replaced by encouragement to do the right thing.
David Steadson, a former epidemiologist from the University of Queensland, has called Sweden home for 20 years.
He told news.com.au earlier in the year that the country was suffering because it refused to take the pandemic as seriously as its neighbours had.
Steadson, who himself became infected in March and is still suffering from Covid-19 symptoms including shortness of breath, said he was shocked by the reaction from doctors when he was first diagnosed.
"Having suspected I had Covid-19, I was told not to even go to the doctor for fear of infecting health staff," he said.
Steadson said what was perhaps even more concerning was the portrayal of the virus in Sweden's media.
"Media outlets seem more concerned with protecting Sweden's image than they do in reporting the facts, and challenging the authorities over some of the frankly outrageous statements they make is left almost entirely to foreign journalists," he said.
Dr Nick Talley, editor-in-chief of the Medical Journal of Australia, said the Swedish model had been a failure.
"In my view, the Swedish model has not been a success, at least to date," he told news.com.au.
"One clear goal at least early on was [to] reach herd immunity – but this was not achieved, not even close, and this was arguably predictable.
"There were restrictions put in place but the philosophy was voluntary rather than compulsory. There is evidence there was a major impact of this voluntary lockdown on behaviour as reflected in, for example, reduced mobility and spending. However the spread of Covid-19 and the death rate was substantially higher in Sweden compared with its neighbours who mandated lockdowns.
"A major contributor to the failure of the voluntary approach was spread of infection into homes for the elderly. Young people also appear to have been the least likely to alter their behaviour which may have contributed to community spread."