Leading Swedish virus expert said the “world has gone mad” with coronavirus blockages that “go against what is known about managing virus pandemics”.
Anders Tegnell, who advised Sweden to avoid total foreclosure in favor of a collective immunity strategy, said world leaders gave in to political pressure in a climate of panic – and the crippling economic downsides locking will far outweigh the benefits.
Sweden has confirmed 68,390 cases of coronavirus and 5,230 deaths – well above its northern neighbors, but its economy is intact and in fact posted slight growth in the first quarter of this year.
Tegnell also hit the WHO after placing Sweden on a list of 11 countries seeing a “dangerous resurgence” of the virus, saying it had “completely misinterpreted” the data.
He said that an “increase” in cases over the past week was actually the result of more tests, which means that mild cases that went undetected before are now counted.
The southern states of the United States, Brazil and India are also seeing the number of cases currently on the rise – which leaders of these countries have also blamed on increased testing.
Tegnell pointed to a steady decline in deaths, hospital admissions and intensive care admissions as evidence that the Swedish epidemic is actually shrinking, not getting worse.
Sweden has seen its number of coronavirus cases increase daily in the past few weeks, which has led WHO to warn that it is witnessing a “resurgence” of the disease.
But country virus expert Anders Tegnell said WHO had “totally misinterpreted” the data, saying the “spike” was due to improved testing and pointed to falling deaths as evidence.
Sweden has been criticized for its strategy because it has one of the highest death rates per million in the world, although it is still behind Belgium, the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy – which have all been blocked
These are the 11 European countries that, according to the WHO, are experiencing a “resurgence”, Sweden recording the second highest number of cases today.
This comes after WHO Europe director Hans Henri Kluge warned at a press conference on Thursday that 11 European countries are at risk of seeing their health systems overwhelmed by a spike in infections.
WHO list of 11 European countries experiencing “resurgence”
- North Macedonia
- Bosnia and herzegovina
WHO later revealed that Sweden was on this list, along with Armenia, Moldova, North Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina , Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Kosovo.
Tegnell said, “This is a complete misunderstanding, I would say.
“They looked at the number of cases a day and it has increased dramatically over the past week.
“This is entirely due to prolonged testing and the fact that we find more mild cases. We see no evidence that our epidemic in Sweden is getting worse – on the contrary.
“It is unfortunate that people confuse Sweden with countries that have not had problems before, which is obviously at the beginning. Sweden is coming to an end.
When asked why the WHO misinterpreted the data, Tegnell replied that no official had been in contact with the Swedish authorities – which means they had missed the nuances.
He added that listing could pose problems for Sweden, especially since countries decide where to allow their citizens to travel after the end of their lockout.
This is not the first time that Tegnell has been forced to defend its strategy without locking, which has caused unrest at home.
Polls show that Swedes are rapidly losing confidence in government strategy, with confidence in politicians and the public health agency collapsing.
In a poll this week, only 38% said they approved of the government’s actions during the pandemic, up from 50% in May.
The high number of deaths in Sweden is of particular concern, particularly in nursing homes which have been hit hard.
In terms of deaths per million people, Sweden is one of the most affected countries in the world.
A graph showing the total number of coronavirus deaths in the country along the vertical axis, with the United States at the top, versus the number of deaths per million along the lower axis, with Belgium being the most affected
Tegnell (left) said that Hans Henri Kluge, WHO’s Europe chief, “was wrong” because he hadn’t spoken to anyone in Sweden before making his announcement.
Globally, coronavirus cases have skyrocketed – with more than 180,000 reported today. But deaths have remained largely stable. This has led to claims that the pandemic is subsiding, and increased testing is behind the apparent outbreak
After passing the table, he is now in fifth place – behind Belgium, Britain, Spain and Italy, which have all been blocked.
Tegnell has since agreed that he had underestimated how lethal the disease would be initially, and said last month that he would have now used tougher measures.
But he continued to insist that complete blockages do more harm than good.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned last week that the world was entering a “new dangerous phase” of coronavirus, as the number of cases worldwide exceeded 150,000 in one day.
Since then, they have increased further and regularly exceed 180,000 per day.
The spike comes as many countries, including those in Europe and the United States, break free, which has limited the number of cases.
While critics have pointed to a softening of rules for increasing cases, others – including US President Donald Trump – say that improved testing is actually the cause.
Like Tegnell, they pointed out that deaths continue to drop even as cases increase as evidence.
However, the picture is further complicated by the fact that deaths often lag behind an increase in the number of cases – which takes two to three weeks to appear in the data.
Many countries have only recently come out of the blockages, which means that a peak in death – if it happens – is several weeks away.
Tegnell is behind Sweden’s decision not to lockout, in favor of social separation and a strategy of collective immunity
Are Doctors Improving Covid-19 Treatment? Coronavirus death rate in Britain fell to a quarter of its level during the peak of the crisis
The risk of dying from coronavirus after being hospitalized has dropped since the peak of the epidemic, suggesting that doctors are improving treatment.
An analysis from the University of Oxford shows that 6% of people admitted to English hospitals with the virus died in early April.
But figures show that as of June 15, only 1.5% of Covid-19 patients were dying from the disease – a quarter of the level at the height of the crisis.
Oxford statisticians cannot explain exactly why survival rates have dropped so much – but they think doctors are getting better at treating the virus.
An analysis from the University of Oxford shows that 6% of people admitted to English hospitals with the virus died in early April. But figures show that as of June 15, only 1.5% of Covid-19 patients were victims of the disease – a quarter of the level at the top
In April, no drug was approved to treat Covid-19, a disease still shrouded in mystery after moving from animals to humans in late 2019.
But now the NHS now has two drugs at its disposal to treat critically ill patients – the remdesivir and the anti-inflammatory steroid dexamethasone.
Dexamethasone, a £ 5 steroid that has been around for decades, was the first proven drug to reduce the death rate in hospital patients needing oxygen.
The evidence for remdesivir is more mixed, but studies have shown that it helps the most seriously ill people who need ventilation.
There are also probably fewer people getting coronavirus in the hospital than at the height of the crisis, which may have contributed to lower mortality rates.
Hospital patients are inherently more likely to be already sick or elderly and are therefore more likely to die if caught.
Of 10,387 people hospitalized in England with Covid-19 on April 2, 644 died, representing a mortality rate of 6%.
On June 15, 50 of the 3,270 hospitalized patients were victims of the disease, which represents approximately 1.5%.
The researchers examined whether those admitted to the hospital were younger and therefore more likely to survive.
But data has shown that there are currently more deaths over the age of 60 than at the peak in early April.
Jason Oke of the University of Oxford was one of the statisticians behind the British analysis.
He told The Times that it was initially uncomfortable to publish the analysis, adding, “We sat on it. We had a good discussion about it to try to find all of the different ways we could be wrong.
“Then we thought we should publish it – that’s what we observed. The caveat is, we don’t really understand why this is happening. But it does happen.
The COVID Symptom Tracker app from King’s College London estimates that only 2,341 Britons are affected by the coronavirus daily. Last week, they used the data to estimate that there were 3,612 people catching the virus every day in Britain and around 4,942 people the week before. The figure was over 11,000 a day a month ago
Other hard-hit countries, including the United States and Italy, are experiencing similar trends in their death rates.
Dr. Oke admitted that the newly approved drugs may be part of the cause of the fall, but said there are other factors at play.
He warned that a less optimistic explanation could be that a large number of mild to moderately ill patients were expelled from hospitals in April.
He said: “Perhaps at the start of the pandemic, when we thought we would be overwhelmed, we only took the most serious cases. “
If only the sickest patients – who are more likely to die from Covid – are treated, this could skew the mortality rate, even if there was no difference in the actual survival rate.