Sweden’s top epidemiologist believes his country could reach “herd immunity” for COVID-19 in the population by May.
“According to our modelers [at the Public Health Agency of Sweden], we are starting to see so many immune people in the population in Stockholm that it is starting to have an effect on the spread of the infection,” Dr. Anders Tegnell recently told local reporters, according to the U.K. Daily Mail.
While Sweden has canceled large sporting and other events, schools, gyms, bars and restaurants have remained open, relying on citizens to do what is necessary to keep themselves safe.
“The government has banned gatherings of 50 people and barred visits to nursing homes. It also banned non-essential travel to Sweden from outside the EU,” the Daily Mail reported.
John Burn-Murdoch of the Financial Times noted in a Monday tweet that Stockholm, Sweden’s capital city and largest population center (2.4 million in the metro area), has seen a decline in new hospitalizations.
• Remember Sweden has not locked down like most places. Social gatherings still common.
• But data show steady deceleration in new hospitalisations
• Daily hospital beds occupied now unchanged vs last week, and on course for net week-on-week reduction very soon
Critics have pointed out that Sweden has had a significantly higher death rate — at 118 per one million people — than the surrounding Nordic nations of Norway, Finland and Denmark.
“Sweden’s per-million tally is also significantly higher than the 42 recorded in Germany – but remains lower than the [United Kingdom’s] rate of 182 (as of Tuesday) and far below Italy’s 349 and Spain’s 399,” The Guardian reported.
Also worth noting that Sweden’s death rate (the yellow line) far exceeds those of its Nordic neighbours. Herd immunity has a cost.
Tegnell is confident that his country made the right call in not going into a lockdown.
“I am very skeptical of lockdowns altogether but if you ever do them, you should do them at an early stage,” he said.
“So far, what we are doing is working,” Tegnell added. “In a sense we are beating it, and I am confident we are doing the best we can in the circumstances.’
The doctor’s assessment of Sweden’s less aggressive approach to the coronavirus outbreak comes as state governors weigh when and how to reopen their economies.
“Far fewer cases per capita as an example than Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Ireland, Switzerland, Singapore, Belgium, Spain, Norway, the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden,” he said.