Sweden Health Chief Admits 'It's Not Over' As Coronavirus Cases Leap
Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has announced a record daily high of coronavirus cases for the second consecutive day. 812 positive COVID-19 tests were reported during the prior 24 hours, taking the overall total to 17,567. Tegnell had previously insisted on several occasions that the spread of the virus was slowing.
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The country has come under fire from scientists in Sweden and around the world for its relatively relaxed approach to tackling the virus compared to other European countries.
More than 2,000 deaths in Sweden
Following an additional 131 deaths reported in the last 24 hours, Sweden’s COVID-19 death toll now stands at 2,152. The numbers were given at the latest daily coronavirus press briefing from the Swedish Public Health Agency.
The Swedish Public Health Agency said it was “clear” that the number of deaths in Sweden this year will be significantly higher than during a regular flu season. During weeks 13 and 14 of 2020, there were approximately 1,000 additional deaths above the expected amount.
“There have been more deaths than expected. It is definitely not over. We see that especially in the small rise in Stockholm again,” said Tegnell. The jump in positive cases comes just 48 hours after the controversial withdrawal of a report that suggested 600,000 Stockholm residents will have been infected by May 1.
When questioned, Tegnell said it was “hard to know” if increased traveling and public contact during the Easter vacation period was to blame. He pointed out that increased testing for healthcare professionals and the elderly could be at least partly behind the increase in reported infections.
In somewhat positive news, those testing positive in recent weeks are trending younger than previously. Tegnell said that this places them at lower risk of developing serious illness.
Too early to relax
Tegnell also said it far too early for life to return to normal. His words were echoed by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), which warned of an increase in cases if citizens do not comply with government guidance.
“There is a significant risk that people start to relax prematurely and stop following guidelines. Continue to follow the authorities’ advice and be part of the solution,” said Svante Werger, special adviser at MSB, according to Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet.
While Sweden has avoided some of the more extreme lockdown measures introduced by its Nordic neighbors, Swedish people have nevertheless been encouraged to stay home and implement social distancing. However, with many shops, gyms, restaurants and bars remaining open, the temptation has proved too much for many.
This has led to the Mayor to Stockholm Anna König Jerlmyr to warn the owners of restaurants and bars that they risk closure unless they ensure social distancing guidelines can be followed: “In the past week, we have received reports that people in Stockholm are starting to relax and enjoy the weather, and I want to be very clear that the restrictions in place are not just general advice. Let me [be] extremely clear. I don’t want to see any crowded outdoor restaurants in Stockholm.”