The controversial strategy earned Sweden the unenviable position of having the highest coronavirus death rate per capita in Europe in mid-May. The country’s Chief Epidemiologist Anders Tegnell remained largely unrepentant about the strategy, telling CNBC in May that there were few things he would have done differently, although he conceded that lessons had been learned.
Sweden was accused by some of putting its economic health before that of its people, and critics, including a number of other Swedish epidemiologists, accused Tegnell and the Public Health Agency of playing Russian roulette with people’s lives, because of the lack of lockdown.
Tegnell said in May that he regretted the high number of deaths in Sweden’s care homes and said that he wanted the country to be better prepared in terms of tracking and tracing coronavirus cases. He also called for an improvement in hygiene standards and practices in the care home sector, in order to better control the virus and reduce the number of fatalities.
To date, Sweden has recorded 83,455 cases of the virus and 5,774 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. These figures are far higher than its Scandinavian neighbors Denmark (which has reported 621 deaths) and Norway, which has seen 256 deaths so far. Neighboring Finland has also seen a far lower death toll, with 333 deaths to date. Although it should be noted that Sweden has roughly twice the number of inhabitants than its neighbors, with around 10 million people.
Critics of Tegnell’s strategy, like Hansson and Calmfors, have called the number of deaths in Sweden a “national catastrophe” and said that some restrictions (such as bans on large gatherings and visits to care homes) were introduced too late.
“According to Johns Hopkins University statistics, the number of deaths from Covid-19 infection per capita is almost as high in Sweden as in Spain and Italy. It is still higher than in the United States. It is five times higher than in Denmark and around ten times higher than in Finland and Norway. There may be several reasons, including elements of chance, but it is still reasonable to believe that less far-reaching, and later introduced, restrictions were crucial,” the academic and economist noted Tuesday.