Critics question Swedish approach as coronavirus death toll reaches 1,000 | News from the world

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Sweden has passed the grim milestone of 1,000 coronavirus deaths, far exceeding the toll of its closest neighbors, as scientists continue to question the government’s light approach to the pandemic.

The Public Health Agency announced on Wednesday a toll of 1,203 people from Covid-19, a rate of 101 per million inhabitants, against 51 in Denmark and only 11 in Finland, both of which have imposed bans strict early to curb the spread of the virus.

Sweden’s total per million is also much higher than the 37 recorded in Germany and the comparable US figure of 79 – but remains below the UK rate of 182 and well below the 348 in Italy and the 386 d ‘Spain.

Anders Wallensten, the deputy chief epidemiologist, said that the number of new cases of Covid-19 was beginning to decrease and that it was “cautiously positive”, with Sweden approaching the peak of the epidemic. Officials said the health system is faring well.

Polls suggest that many Swedes continue to support the government’s strategy, which has prompted citizens to take personal responsibility for following physical removal guidelines rather than strictly enforcing mandatory rules.

While authorities have closed high schools and banned gatherings of more than 50 people, they have asked – rather than ordered – people to avoid non-essential travel, home work and stay indoors. they are over 70 or feel sick.

Statistics show that about half of the Swedish workforce is now working from home, that public transport use has dropped by 50% in Stockholm and that the streets of the capital are about 70% less busy than other cities. habit – but Swedes can still shop, go to restaurants, get their hair cut and send children under the age of 16 to class even if a family member is sick.

The government’s refusal to close primary and secondary schools – and the authorities’ insistence that only sick children themselves can stay at home – has worried some families and some teachers, according to staff and parent groups.

Healthy students who were not educated by anxious parents were threatened with expulsion to social services, while affected families and school staff wrote open letters describing government policy as “unacceptable” and arguing that it “risks the lives of children, parents and staff”.

In a letter published last week in the Aftonbladet newspaper, more than 900 teachers and school staff said that it was impossible for schools and daycares to meet recommendations for physical distance, adding that “in many cases ”the children whose family members were infected had followed the instructions to go to school. , which means “we are unable to protect children and educators from at-risk groups”.

Anders Tegnell, the country’s chief epidemiologist, described the Swedish approach as an attempt to guarantee “a slow spread of the infection and that the health services are not overwhelmed”, arguing that it is important for a part of the population to acquire immunity.

Tegnell denied trying to build rapid “collective immunity” against the virus, a strategy originally adopted by the UK and the Netherlands before the expected number of deaths prompted them to change course.

Some experts hypothesized that Sweden’s approach to managing the spread of the virus could also be influenced by its demographic profile – more than 50% of households are made up of one person – and a relatively low population density about 25 people per square kilometer, compared, for example, to 205 in Italy.

Although the longer-term impact is obviously not known, Sweden’s strategy should not preserve the country’s economy this year more than that of the countries imposing more stringent restrictions: Magdalena Andersson, Minister of Finance, said Wednesday that GDP could fall 10% this year. and unemployment rises to 13.5%.

The strategy has also been criticized by some of the country’s best scientists. A group of 22 doctors, virologists and researchers on Tuesday criticized the health agency in an editorial published by the newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

“The approach must be radically and quickly changed,” the group wrote. “As the virus spreads, there is a need to increase social distance. Close to schools and restaurants. Anyone working with the elderly must wear adequate protective equipment. Quarantine the whole family if a member is sick or if the test is positive. Elected officials must intervene, there is no other choice. “

Tegnell rejected the criticism and disputed the figures on which it was based. He previously said that Sweden and its neighbors were “in different places on the curve” and that Sweden had “unfortunately experienced a large spread of contagion in nursing homes, which you don’t not seen in other Nordic countries ”.

The chief epidemiologist has repeatedly stressed that the world is in unknown territory with the coronavirus, saying that if Sweden could have more infections in the short term, it would not run the risk of a huge increase in infections than many other countries could meet once their strict blockages are lifted.

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