In Brief

Sweden claims ‘vindication’ over anti-lockdown policy as Covid cases hit new low

Rate of positive tests has fallen from 19% at peak of pandemic to just 1.3%

Sweden is claiming a major victory in the battle against Covid-19 after recording its lowest rate of positive coronavirus tests yet despite ramping up the country’s testing regime to record levels.

The Swedish Health Ministry says that 120,000 tests have been conducted over the last week, of which just 1.3% came back positive. This rate had soared as high as 19% at the peak of the pandemic, fuelling international criticism of Sweden’s decision not to impose a lockdown and instead rely on citizens to observe social distancing and good hygiene.

But with other countries across Europe now seeing surges in infections, the authorities in Stockholm are celebrating “what one health official said was a vindication of its relatively non-intrusive Covid-19 strategy”, reports The Times.

Professor Johan Carlson, director of Sweden’s Public Health Agency, told the newspaper that his country’s response to the outbreak had been “consistent and sustainable”.

Swedes seemed to be benefiting from widespread immunity after being allowed to continue with their everyday lives during the first wave, he said, adding: “We probably have a lower risk of [the virus] spreading than other countries.”

In an interview with The Observer last month, Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell claimed that almost a third of the country’s citizens could now be immune to the virus - although this figure was disputed. 

“In another striking illustration of the progress Sweden has made, it is now recording fewer new cases per capita than Norway, which introduced one of Europe’s earliest lockdowns, for the first time since April,” says The Times.

Indeed, Sweden now has the lowest rate of spread in Scandinavia, with hospitalisations and deaths also at low levels.

To date, Sweden has recorded more than 5,800 Covid-related deaths, “many times higher per capita than in neighbouring Nordic countries, but lower than Italy, Spain and the UK”, says Reuters.

However, the recent praise for Stockholm’s Covid strategy has angered some commentators, who point out that despite tripling testing since June, Sweden has still recorded the fifth-highest per capita death rate in Europe.

“It seems some numbers need to be repeated,” says an editorial in Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter. “Sweden has 5,837 dead in COVID-19. A proportion five times higher than Denmark.”

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