Sweden today reported a record 170 new deaths from coronaviruses in a widely expected wave after the Easter weekend.
The 170 new deaths – surpassing the historic record of 114 recorded yesterday – bring the death toll from 1,033 to 1,203 in a country that still refuses to lock itself up.
Only a handful of deaths were recorded on Saturday and Sunday, which means the numbers were always likely to go up when the weekend was properly counted.
The number of infections increased by 482, a less dramatic increase, bringing the overall total from 11,445 to 11,927.
Sweden added 170 coronavirus deaths to its official tally today in a widely anticipated wave after only a handful of cases were reported over the weekend, as this graph shows
This graph shows the daily number of infections. Today’s figure of 482 was similar to the previous two days
Swedish authorities had announced only 17 new deaths on Saturday, an unlikely figure after an average jump of 94 during the week.
Health officials now say 50 deaths were recorded on Saturday, but many were not revealed until after Easter.
Similarly, the 12 new deaths announced on Sunday were only a fraction of the 54 people who would have died that day.
Many countries experienced delays in reporting weekend figures, a problem exacerbated this week by the long Easter break.
Spain has generally seen an increase in new cases reported on Tuesdays and Wednesdays after the weekend is fully taken into account.
Sweden continues to resist a foreclosure, making it an outlier in Europe where most countries have imposed heavy restrictions.
Bars and restaurants are still open in Sweden, as are primary schools, and public gatherings of 50 people are still allowed.
Stores are also open, subject to social distancing rules, but the government has faced increasing criticism from doctors and academics for its mild policy.
A group of 22 doctors, virologists and researchers criticized the Public Health Agency in an editorial published Tuesday by the newspaper Dagens Nyheter.
They accused him of not having devised an adequate strategy, stressing that the death rate in Sweden was now much higher than that of its northern neighbors.
One, professor of epidemiology Bo Lundback at the University of Gothenburg, said that “the authorities and the government did not foolishly believe that the epidemic would reach Sweden”.
“Sweden was ill-prepared or not even prepared at all,” he said, joining the researchers’ calls for “swift and drastic measures” to stem the epidemic.
People enjoy the sunny weather in Stockholm on Saturday, sitting outside in a restaurant in a type of gathering that has been banned in most European countries for weeks
The virus in Sweden has also disproportionately affected people born abroad. The Public Health Agency has stressed that it is true that people are from Africa, Europe or the Middle East.
In contrast, the Norwegian health authorities said that there had been “no general over-representation among the foreign-born.”
According to figures released last week, some of Stockholm’s poorest neighborhoods, where many immigrants live, were up to three times more affected than the rest of the capital.
Gina Gustavsson, associate professor of political science at the University of Uppsala, said the government showed “a worrying lack of knowledge” or a lack of interest in people of different social backgrounds.
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, speaking to broadcaster SVT over the weekend, admitted that “preparation was not enough.
People sit outside during Easter weekend in Stockholm, which accounts for more than 40% of the country’s coronavirus cases
Officials insist that their plan is viable in the long term, dismissing drastic short-term measures as too ineffective to justify their impact on society.
The government has emphasized “individual responsibility” and trusted the Swedes to obey the social distance guidelines without applying them.
“The Swedes have great confidence in government agencies. This means that a large proportion of people follow the advice of government agencies, “say officials.
“In the current situation, Swedes are acting globally in a responsible manner to reduce the spread of the infection, for example by restricting their social contacts.
“This crisis can last a long time and for the measures to work over time, people must understand and accept them. “
However, Sweden has pledged to spend over 100 billion crowns (£ 8 billion) to cope with the economic impact of the pandemic.
Despite the lack of foreclosure, the Swedish economy is expected to contract by around 4% this year.
Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson told SVT that ministers hope the economy will improve again before the end of the year.
“In the forecasts, we estimate that we will witness a very marked slowdown in the economy in the first half and that we will then start to climb up the slope, but it is clear that the crisis can be both deeper and longer than that, “she said. .
Young people are seated at a table in central Stockholm over the Easter weekend. The number of reported deaths has risen sharply today after the release of very low figures this weekend
The new measures include grants for shorter hours, tax breaks, loan guarantees and simpler rules for claiming benefits.
Billions of dollars have also been pledged to local authorities to cover additional health costs due to the crisis.
“The measures will give greater security to those affected by the crisis by limiting the spread of infection, limit the consequences for businesses and jobs and, at the same time, give economic security and the possibility of a fresh start for those who become unemployed, “said Andersson.
About 5,000 of the country’s 11,927 cases are in the Stockholm region, according to official figures, although the actual figure may be higher.
Random sampling by the public health agency suggests that at least 2.5% of Stockholm residents may already have been infected, implying a much higher figure around 60,000.
The 1,203 deaths consist of 686 men and 517 women, reflecting a trend elsewhere that has been widely noted but is poorly understood.
Experts have suggested poor hygiene, smoking rates and a stronger female immune system as possible reasons why men seem to be more sensitive.