Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven defended his government’s anti-quarantine policy amid an unrelenting international and local uproar.
“I think the strategy is holding up,” he told Aftonbladet. “People are taking responsibility, and it wouldn’t be sustainable to shut down the entire society.”
But Sweden has now recorded its highest number of Coronavirus deaths in one day after refusing to lock down. The death toll topped 1 203 with a record 170 fatalities in the last 24 hours.
With its population of 10 million people, parents have been sending children to school, going to the gym and visiting restaurants.
Some 22 Swedish doctors, virologists and researchers criticised the Public Health Agency’s [Folkhälsomyndigheten] lax attitude in an opinion piece published in the daily Dagens Nyheter on Tuesday.
Also, a petition signed by more than 2 000 doctors, scientists, and professors – including the chairman of the Nobel Foundation, Prof Carl-Henrik Heldin – called on the government to introduce stricter containment measures. “We’re not testing enough, we’re not tracking, we’re not isolating enough – we have let the virus loose,” Prof Cecilia Söderberg-Nauclér, a virus immunology researcher at the Karolinska Institute complained. “They are leading us to catastrophe.”
Söderberg-Nauclér told British daily the Guardian: “The government thinks they can’t stop it, so they’ve decided to let people die,” Söderberg-Nauclér said. “They don’t want to listen to the scientific data that’s presented to them. They trust the Public Health Agency blindly, but the data they have is weak – embarrassing even.
“We are seeing signs of a higher doubling rate than Italy, Stockholm will soon have an acute ICU shortage, and they don’t understand that by then it will be too late to act. All of this is very dangerous.”
Scientists accused the government of being responsible for the high the mortality rate in Sweden – now at least double that of most of its Nordic neighbours. Epidemiology professor Bo Lundback of the University of Gothenburg, told British tabloid The Sun that the Swedish government was being naive and irresponsible.
But Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s chief epidemiologist dismissed the higher mortality rate. He said Sweden was going into a phase in the epidemic “where we’ll see a lot more cases in the next few weeks, more people in the ICU, but that’s just like any other country – nowhere has been able to slow down the spread considerably”.
Norway has 6 740 cases and 145 deaths. Finland has 3 237 cases and 72 deaths. Denmark has 6 681 cases and 309 deaths.
On Wednesday restrictions were lifted in Helsinki and the rest of the Uusimaa province, which had introduced restrictions against the spread of Covid-19. This is a first step in lifting all restrictions.
To date, Finland has registered almost two-thirds of all cases in Uusimaa.
At the same time, Danish students returned to the schools for the first time in a month.