THE scientist who led Sweden’s controversial Covid-19 response has admitted that Sweden’s lax approach did in fact result in “too many deaths” and far higher than the numbers registered in other Nordic countries.
Anders Tegnell of the Public Health Agency of Sweden now acknowledges that the country should have done more to stop the spread of the coronavirus. “If we were to run into the same disease, knowing exactly what we know about it today, I think we would end up doing something in between what Sweden did and what the rest of the world has done,” he admitted on a recent Swedish Radio interview.
Compared to the rest of Europe, Sweden decided on a more relaxed approach by refusing to impose a lockdown or mandatory quarantine. Residents were encouraged to follow personal hygiene guidelines and maintain social distancing, while venues such as museums, bars, nightclubs, restaurants, gyms, shopping centres and even schools remained open. Health officials did, however, ban gatherings of 50 or more people and recommended that residents avoid non-essential travel. It also encouraged people over 70 years to stay home as much as possible, and prohibited residents from visiting nursing homes from late March. However, it was not enough to “prevent the virus from reaching elderly care facilities throughout the country,” according to the health experts.
According to Worldometer, Sweden now has 44,730 people infected, with around 4,659 deaths from the disease (as at Monday June 8), and about half of those deaths occurred among elderly people living in nursing homes. The research group Ourworldindata.org estimates that Sweden has the eighth highest number of coronavirus-related deaths per capita. However, neighbouring Nordic countries that did impose lockdowns have seen far lower rates of infections and deaths. Denmark for example, has registered around 11,948 cases of Covid-19 in total with around 589 fatalities from the disease to date, Norway recorded around 8,547 cases, and a total of 238 coronavirus deaths; and Finland has diagnosed 6,981 cases and 323 Covid-19 deaths.
Bjorn Olsen, University Professor of Infectious Medicine at Sweden’s Uppsala University Hospital, has described the country’s response to the pandemic “one of Sweden’s biggest embarrassments and most tragic events.” Even Tegnell now believes that in hindsight, “Sweden should have conducted much more widespread diagnostic testing and sooner” to have prevented the high number of deaths, which is far higher than its neighbouring Nordic countries.