Sweden’s chief epidemiologist said Wednesday that he and the country’s other experts should have done more to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
There is “quite obviously a potential for improvement in what we have done,” Anders Tegnell, who helped craft the country’s laid-back approach to COVID-19, told Swedish Radio Wednesday. Tegnell was asked if the death toll in Sweden was too high — to which he replied: “yes, absolutely,” The Guardian reported.
“If we were to encounter the same disease again knowing exactly what we know about it today, I think we would settle on doing something in between what Sweden did and what the rest of the world has done,” Tegnell said. It would be “good to know exactly what to shut down to curb the spread of infection better,” he added.
Sweden’s 4,468 deaths from COVID-19 represent a death toll of roughly 449 per million, according to The Guardian, putting the country among those with the highest death.
Sweden did not focus enough on the country’s nursing homes, where more than half of the country’s deaths have transpired, according to Tegnell. (RELATED: Tucker: WHO ‘Admitting’ Sweden’s ‘Model’ Is Working But US Policy Makers Won’t ‘Abandon A Sweeping Power Grab’)
Sweden’s government promised to create a commission to review the country’s COVID-19 strategy, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven announced Monday.
It’s not obvious what policy changes are necessary, Tegnell said.
“Other countries started with a lot of measures all at once. The problem with that is that you don’t really know which of the measures you have taken is most effective,” Tegnell said. Sweden will have to determine “what else, besides what we did, you could do without imposing a total shutdown,” he added.
Annike Linde, Tegnell’s predecessor as chief epidemiologist, initially backed the country’s strategy but reassessed her view as the virus spread through the elderly population.
“There was no strategy at all for the elderly, I now understand,” Linde told the Swedish state broadcaster, according to a Guardian report Wednesday on Tegnell’s comments. “I do not understand how they can stand and say the level of preparedness was good, when in fact it was lousy.”
Swedish experts also assumed the coronavirus would behave like seasonal flu, Linde said in the interview. “It does not behave like the flu at all,” she said. “It spreads more slowly and has a longer incubation time. This makes it more difficult to detect, and to build immunity in the population.”
Data show that the bulk of deaths from the novel coronavirus have come from nursing homes. Nearly half of all coronavirus-related deaths in Europe have occurred in nursing homes, according to data the World Health Organization reported in April. Government reports show that the United States has seen a similar jump in COVID deaths in nursing homes.
Nearly 26,000 nursing home residents died from COVID-19 as officials demanded states perform more rigorous inspections and vowed higher fines for facilities with high deficiency rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Roughly 107,000 people in the U.S. have reportedly died from COVID-19, which originated in Wuhan, China, in late 2019.
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