| 16.4°C Dublin

'We should have done more,' admits Swedish health chief

Close

Joy: Students run out of their school celebrating their high school graduation at Nacka Gymnasium in Stockholm, Sweden, yesterday after being subject to distance teaching since March. Photos: TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images

Joy: Students run out of their school celebrating their high school graduation at Nacka Gymnasium in Stockholm, Sweden, yesterday after being subject to distance teaching since March. Photos: TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images

TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Ima

Joy: Students run out of their school celebrating their high school graduation at Nacka Gymnasium in Stockholm, Sweden, yesterday after being subject to distance teaching since March. Photos: TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images

Sweden's state epidemiologist has said the country should have imposed greater restrictions to bring its coronavirus epidemic under control - the first time he has expressed doubts about his decision not to impose a lockdown.

In an interview with Sweden's state radio broadcaster SR, Anders Tegnell said that, given Sweden's stubbornly high death rate, he no longer believed that he and the Public Health Agency had got the balance right.

"If we were hit by the same disease, knowing exactly what we know today, I think we would end up doing something between what Sweden has done and what the rest of the world has done," he said yesterday.

"I think there's room for improvement in what we've done in Sweden, absolutely."

Sweden's coronavirus strategy, which has been much less restrictive than that of any other developed country, has received enormous attention internationally, serving as a pin-up for opponents of lockdown restrictions.

Schools for those up to the age of 16, bars, restaurants, shopping centres and sports facilities have all remained open, while gatherings of up to 50 people have been permitted.

Instead, authorities have placed a heavy reliance on voluntary measures, with people asked to stay at home if they have even light symptoms, follow hygiene rules, and keep their distance.

Doubts started to grow over the approach, however, when Sweden's death rate in April began to pull dramatically away from those of Denmark and Norway - which both imposed much stricter restrictions.

Sweden's death rate, at 450 per million inhabitants, is 10 times that of Norway, close to five times that of Denmark.

Mr Tegnell has previously explained this by pointing to the failure of the municipalities and private companies running the country's care homes to adequately protect the elderly.

While he has denied that Sweden is pursuing a herd immunity strategy, he has also warned that countries which have imposed strict lockdowns will be more vulnerable to a second wave.

At the Public Health Agency of Sweden's daily press conference, Mr Tegnell rowed back his comments, saying his words had been misconstrued and that he did not believe Sweden's strategy was wrong or needed to change.

"We still think that the strategy is good, but one can always be better in this line of work," he said.

"I think Sweden has chosen the right track."

If he had a second chance, he suggested, he would make sure testing was better organised, and that people in care homes were protected more.

But, on the other hand, he said he might also have left upper secondary schools open instead of closing them. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent