Sweden has registered its lowest rate of positive coronavirus tests yet even as its testing regime has been expanded to record levels with experts now saying their strategy was justified.
Over the past week, the country carried out more than 120,000 tests, of which only 1.3 per cent identified the disease. At the height of the pandemic, the proportion was almost 20 per cent. Epidemiologist and director of the Swedish public health agency, Johan Carlson, said that Swedes seemed to be benefiting from widespread immunity because of the decision taken not to impose a full lockdown during the first wave.
“Our strategy was consistent and sustainable,” Professor Carlson said. “We probably have a lower risk of [the virus] spreading than other countries.”
The small proportion of 1.3 per cent, from more than 120,000 tests carried out over the past week, represents a huge drop from the peak of the pandemic when it stood at 19 per cent. Sweden has recorded 5,838 deaths due to Covid-19 which the fifth-highest rate per capita in Europe. New infection numbers however have been on a downward slope since June.
On Wednesday, Sweden logged fewer deaths per million people – 0.06 – than in the UK, where the figure was 0.17 ahead of Boris Johnson’s reversal of lockdown easing. Sweden recently recorded its highest death toll for 150 years.
The public are urged to work from home where possible but schools, bars and restaurants largely remained open throughout the crisis. While people were, and still are, urged to keep 1.5m away from each other, Sweden has not yet demanded masks be worn in shops or on transport like the rest of Europe.
At the start, scientists described the ‘ herd immunity’ approach as reckless, with some predicting as many as 180,000 people from a population of 10.2 million could die as a result. While only Belgium, the UK, Spain and Italy have recorded more deaths than Sweden, its total of 5,838 shows how exaggerated those initial estimates were, particularly given the downward trajectory since the summer. In the whole of Sweden only seven people have died this week this due to the coronavirus.