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Fascinating interview with From Sweden state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell on BBC Radio 4’s Today show this morning.

Sweden has been criticized for taking a different route from its neighbors, and indeed from the rest of Europe, in its approach to fighting coronaviruses. It has asked its citizens to avoid non-essential travel, homework and to stay indoors if they are over 70 or feel sick – but there has been no forced lock-out.

The country has experienced a higher mortality rate than its neighbors. The Swedish Public Health Agency said yesterday it had registered 16,755 confirmed cases and 2,021 deaths from the coronavirus. And there has been anger in the country that older people have borne the brunt of the strategy, as my colleague Richard Orange reported.

Lena Einhorn, a virologist who has been one of the main national critics of Swedish coronavirus policy, told the Observer.

They have to admit that this is a huge failure, because they have always said that their main objective was to protect the elderly.

But Tegnall said today that Sweden’s strategy put him in a better place to deal with a second wave of coronavirus, as scientists in the country estimated that there was now about 15-20% immunity in the population – not enough for collective immunity, but enough to slow and control the spread of the disease.

Asked if the policy had worked, Tegnall said the goal was to slow the progression of the disease so that his health system was not overwhelmed.

It worked in some ways. The health service was able to cope – 20% of the intensive care beds were empty and able to care for patients with coronavirus at any time.

In terms of the death toll, Sweden had seen “about the same results as other countries,” he said.

Asked that there are more deaths in Sweden than in other Scandinavian countries, he said that up to 50% of the deaths occurred in nursing homes for the elderly – which banned visitors. . “It is unclear how a lock could have prevented this,” he said. Asked if the strategy had resulted in more deaths, he replied:

It’s a difficult question and I don’t think we have the answer and I don’t know if we will ever get the answer.

Sweden estimates that it has passed the peak of the disease last week and hopes that it will be better placed to face new epidemics

We hope this will make our job easier in the long run. Another part of the reasoning is that we want something sustainable, if we need mitigation, we can keep doing it for a long time, if it seems to have a second wave in the fall, we can easily keep doing it that we do now.


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