Monday, 30th October 2017

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Sweden tops UK to highest per capita toll

The country's strategy came under criticism from Norway, Denmark, and Finland

By Richard Orange in Malmo
  • Published 22.05.20, 1:42 AM
  • Updated 22.05.20, 1:42 AM
  • a min read
Stockholm residents observe distancing norms at a shopping centre in the city on Tuesday (AP photo)

Sweden has overtaken the UK, Italy and Belgium to have the highest coronavirus per capita death rate in the world, throwing its decision to avoid lockdown into doubt.

According to the Our World in Data website, Sweden had 6.08 deaths per million inhabitants per day on a rolling seven-day average between May 13 and May 20. This is the world's highest, beating the UK, Belgium and the US, which had 5.57, 4.28 and 4.11 respectively.

However, over the entire course of the pandemic, Belgium, Spain, Italy, the UK and France are still ahead.

Anders Tegnell, a state epidemiologist and spokesman for Sweden’s coronavirus strategy, dismissed the figures, arguing it was misleading to focus on the death toll over a single week.

“This is something we should look at when it’s all over,” he told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.

The country’s decision to keep open schools, bars and restaurants, and to continue to allow gatherings of up to 50 people, was praised by those seeking an early end to restrictions. Supporters argued it was better equipped to avoid a second wave, as a degree of herd immunity may have been achieved.

But the strategy came under criticism from Norway, Denmark, and Finland, which had put in place much tighter restrictions, and which reported dramatically fewer deaths.

Frode Forland, Norway’s state epidemiologist, said there had been almost no critical debate or media coverage of the high death rate in Sweden.

“You want to support your own government and strategy,” he said, “But Sweden is going against the whole world.”

Lena Einhorn, a Swedish virologist and one of a group of 22 Swedish scientists and researchers who have from the start challenged the country’s strategy, said it was frustrating that Tegnell and his team still refused to alter the country’s strategy despite growing evidence of failure.

However, the population in Sweden remained supportive of the way its public health agency had handled the pandemic.

New York Times News Service