Lockdown-free Sweden saw its coronavirus case rate drop below its Nordic neighbours Denmark and Norway today to just 12 new infections per million people over the past week.
In comparison, Norway saw 14 new infections per million people, and Denmark saw 18, meaning Sweden had an average case rate over seven days lower than its neighbours for the first time since March.
‘Sweden has gone from being one of the countries with the most infection in Europe, to one of those with the least infection in Europe,’ the country’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said at a press conference earlier this week.
Meanwhile, ‘many other countries have seen a rather dramatic increase,’ he added.
At the height of the pandemic, Sweden’s infection rate dwarfed that of its neighbours, who did implement a lockdown.
For the first time since March, Sweden’s infection rater per million people (12) dropped below that of its Nordic neighbours Denmark (18) and Norway (14)
At the height of its pandemic (pictured in April), Sweden chose not to lock-down. Now, for the first time since March, its infection rate per one million people has dropped below that of its Nordic neighbours Denmark and Norway
At its peak on June 19, Sweden was seeing 108 new infections per million people, compared to Denmark and Norway’s eight and three respectively.
The number of deaths in Sweden is now averaging at two to three per day, compared to a peak of over a hundred per-day it suffered in mid-April.
Furthermore, its capital Stockholm, the epicentre of Sweden’s pandemic during the peak months of April and May, registered its lowers number of cases since March last week.
In Stockholm, 250 of 14,000 people tested last week were infected with the virus, a positive rate of 1.8 percent.
Meanwhile, Denmark registered 179 new cases on Friday, its highest daily total for more than four months.
To add to positive signs in Sweden, a test last week of 2,500 randomly selected people found not one had coronavirus.
In comparison, in a similar test, 0.9 per cent were found to have the virus at the end of April and 0.3 per cent at the end of May.
Announcing the results on Thursday, Dr Tegnell’s deputy at the Public Health Agency of Sweden, Karin Tegmark Wisell, said: ‘We interpret this as meaning there is not currently a widespread infection among people who do not have symptoms.’
Lockdown-free Sweden has been controversial for its liberal attitude to controlling the pandemic, preferring instead to let run through the population to create a ‘herd immunity’.
But the country’s latest figures may silence some of its critics, and will come as a relief to those who advocated for the approach and came under fire in May as the country saw the highest per-capita death rate in the world for a period.
Instead of implementing a lockdown, Sweden focused on voluntary measures and offered guidance for social distancing and hygiene. Pictured: A sticker on the floor in Stockholm asks people to stand two meters apart
Instead of implementing a lockdown, Sweden’s measures focused on voluntary social distancing guidance and hygiene recommendations, and it also refused to recommend the use of face masks, but has said they may be advised in the future.
Many businesses have also continued to operate, meaning the economy has fared significantly better than most.
But unlike many countries in Europe seeing a resurgence of cases, including France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Italy – Sweden’s figures seems to be continuing to head downwards.
‘What we see now is that the sustainable policy might be slower in getting results, but it will get results eventually,’ Dr Tegnell said. ‘And then we also hope that the result will be more stable.’
Pictured: State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell of the Public Health Agency of Sweden speaks during a news conference updating on the coronavirus pandemic. ‘Sweden has gone from being one of the countries with the most infection in Europe, to one of those with the least infection in Europe,’ he said earlier this week
Speaking on television, the doctor said that it might now be possible for grandparents – who were adivsed to stay at home and isolate and avoid close contact with their grandchildren – may now be able to spend Christmas with them.
‘I think its probably possible that we can celebrate a little more of a normal Christmas than we would have thought otherwise,’ he said, but advised families to ‘think it through properly’, and have ‘sensible arrangements’ for keeping distance.
So far, Sweden has reported 5,832 deaths caused by Covid-19, more than six times as many as Denmark (264) and Norway (629) combined, and is also carrying out fewer tests per-capita than its neighbours.
Per Follin, department head at Stockholm’s Communicable Disease Control and Prevention, said last week’s testing was the ‘lowest level in a very long time’.
Pictured: A woman stops to look at fabric face masks on sale in a shop in Stockholm, Sweden, on August 31. Sweden has not yet required face masks to be worn
Stockholm, the epicentre of Sweden’s coronavirus outbreak, registered its fewest cases ‘in a very long time’ last week as just 250 of 14,000 people tested were infected with the virus
He told AFP in an email that they can’t ‘really compare now and then’ as widespread testing was not underway in Sweden until June, but they could say that figures have declined ‘since week 10 or 11, possibly even earlier’.
Before June, Stockholm only tested serious cases which were admitted to hospital.
‘The reason we have relatively low transmission now is largely due to the fact that so many Stockholmers are following the recommendations to stay home when you’re sick, wash hands and keep your distance,’ Follin said in a statement.
The number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care is also currently low, with six patients in Stockholm hospitals as of August 31. This is compared to 225 at the end of April, according to local health authority Region Stockholm.
As of Thursday, Sweden had the world’s eighth-highest death toll at 577 per million inhabitants, mainly due to its failure to protect the elderly in nursing homes in the early stages of the pandemic.
Sweden recorded 11 new cases of coronavirus on September 2, bringing the total number of cases up to 84,532.
Lockdown-free Sweden adopted a liberal approach to the pandemic, encouraging voluntary social distancing guidance and hygiene recommendations