Sweden, which is almost the only one in Europe to reject a sweeping lockdown this spring, has introduced new guidelines to curb the increase in coronavirus infections but is committed to its largely voluntary approach.
The Scandinavian country, which has had only minor restrictions throughout the pandemic, has survived until recently the second wave of Covid-19 cases currently sweeping Europe. Authorities’ hopes that this would be the result of group immunity built up as the disease spread rapidly in communities earlier in the year in recent days when a spike in new cases put Stockholm on track to reach the infection record last spring.
The new measures, which came into effect less than a week ago, recommend that all family members be isolated for a week in the event that one of them becomes infected. Those who cannot work from home will be eligible for sick pay.
Additionally, anyone with cold-like symptoms such as sore throats is encouraged to stay home and get tested for Covid-19. So far, the test is only recommended for those with obvious symptoms of the disease, such as loss of smell or overheating.
Anders Tegnell, a government epidemiologist in Sweden and the architect of the management of the Corona virus, said that his country will improve during the course of the epidemic compared to countries that have imposed more stringent restrictions.
Tegnell said at a CEO summit in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that shutting down communications at home for a week “actually reduces the risk of it spreading, especially in the homes of the elderly.”
Mr Tegnell said the new measures were a response to rising infection levels in Stockholm and some other areas. He said that people between the ages of 20 and 29 are now the engine of the epidemic.
An analysis of Stockholm wastewater this week indicated that the coronavirus infection rate in the capital had doubled in September compared to the previous month and was on its way to reaching this spring level.
A similar trend has been occurring across Europe since late summer, with the number of cases increasing across the board, and in some countries such as Spain, hospitalization rates are now increasing as well.
While Mr. Tegnell said Sweden has not recorded an increase in hospitalizations, he said that herd immunity has not been achieved. Herd immunity is the stage of an epidemic when a sufficient number of people become immune to the pathogen either through disease or receiving a vaccine to prevent it from spreading in the community.
“For Covid, it was difficult to measure immunity … It was a mystery to me. We would probably have some kind of immunity in Sweden. For Covid-19, (herd immunity) is still a fuzzy concept, how important it is and how it really works. by the time. “
He rejected claims that Sweden’s higher death rate this spring compared to its neighbors was a result of authorities chasing herd immunity. He said that the deaths occurred despite, not because of government guidelines, to protect nursing homes and limit the spread of the disease.
He said, “This was definitely not a conscious decision, and it was certainly not a matter of sacrificing anyone or letting people die on purpose from this disease.”
Mr Tegnell blamed the death rate – total Covid-19 deaths in Sweden are now 578 per million inhabitants, compared to 115 in Germany – on nursing homes that fail to implement government guidelines early and effectively.
He said: “We all knew from the beginning that this is a very dangerous disease for the elderly. We have published this message, but unfortunately this message has not been captured by all nursing homes.” “Some of them did, others did not.”
Mr. Tegnell said his country’s strategy of voluntary compliance would prove successful in the long term. He predicted that the pandemic would continue for at least another year – the time needed for vaccines to become widely available.
He said vaccines should initially be reserved for certain groups due to their limited availability.
Write to Bojan Pancevski at [email protected]
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