People walk on Stranvagen in Stockholm on September 19, 2020.
JONATHAN NACKSTRAND | AFP | Getty Images
Sweden’s foremost epidemiologist has partly accused the country’s high death toll from mild outbreaks of influenza in recent winters.
“When many people die of the flu in the winter, fewer people die in heat waves the following summer. In this case, it was Covid-1
“What has now been seen is that the countries that have had a fairly low mortality from influenza in the last two, three years, such as Sweden, have a very high excess mortality in Covid-19,” he said, according to a translation provided in the newspaper The Times.
“Those who had a high influenza mortality rate, such as Norway, during the last two winters, have a fairly low cow mortality rate. The same trend has been seen in several countries. This may not be the whole explanation but part of it.”
Much attention has been paid to Sweden during the coronavirus pandemic due to its controversial decision not to completely lock its public life and economy. Most of its neighbors and Europe did so when the coronavirus case increased in the spring.
The Swedish Public Health Authority, where Tegnell is the chief epidemiologist, instead recommended most voluntary measures, such as good hygiene, guidelines for social distancing and working from home if possible.
However, bars, restaurants, most schools and businesses remained open, and face masks are not widely worn. Sweden, however, banned mass gatherings and visits to nursing homes, although the latter restriction will be lifted soon despite the high number of deaths from Covid-19 seen in such institutions.
Sweden’s policy for freedom of blockade was seen by Tegnell as a way to achieve a certain crew immunity in the population, he told CNBC already in April.
Herd immunity among a population, which is usually achieved through vaccination, is achieved when about 60% of citizens are considered immune. As there is currently no vaccine against coronavirus, researchers have investigated whether exposure to and recovery from Covid-19 leads to long-term immunity.
Practicing herd immunity has proven to be controversial in Sweden, as allowing the virus to spread (albeit with certain measures) has exposed vulnerable groups such as the elderly and people with pre-existing health conditions to a greater risk of becoming seriously ill and potentially dying. In July, WHO officials warned that patients recovering from the virus might get it again, saying some studies suggest that immunity may decline after a few months.
Sweden has reported a higher number of infections and deaths than its neighbors, but with about 10 million people, the country has about twice as many as the population in its neighbors Denmark, Finland and Norway. To date, Sweden has registered nearly 90,000 cases and 5,870 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Denmark, on the other hand, has registered less than 25,000 cases and 641 deaths.
Unlike the large European economies, France, Spain and the United Kingdom, which see cases of coronavirus viruses increase again in what is described as a second wave of the pandemic, Sweden was originally considered to avoid a resurgence. Outbreaks among sports teams have, however, appeared in recent weeks, and increasing cases in the capital Stockholm mean that the city can now move towards more restrictions.
“Stockholm has seen a clear increase recently, in all age groups,” Tegnell said at a press conference, Dagens Nyheter reported on Tuesday. “We are discussing with Stockholm if we need any further opportunity to take measures to reduce the transfer.”
The possible measures that could be introduced were not discussed without Stockholm Health and medical director Björn Eriksson, present at the press conference, said that an upward trend in the Stockholm region could lead to a “very serious situation again.”