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Sweden has launched an inquiry into its no-lockdown policy after thousands of coronavirus deaths in the country.
Sweden now has the fifth-highest per capita death rate in the world with a larger death toll than all of its neighbours’ combined.
Sweden’s daily new cases rose to over 1,000 in the last week, up from fewer than 500 in May.
Sweden’s prime minister said the country must now change its approach.
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Sweden’s prime minister has ordered an inquiry into the country’s decision not to impose a coronavirus lockdown after the country suffered thousands more deaths than its closest neighbours.
“We have thousands of dead,” Swedish prime minister Stefan Lofven said at a press conference on Wednesday, while admitting that the country’s handling had exposed Sweden’s “shortcomings,” The Times of London reported.
“Now the question is how Sweden should change, not if.”
Unlike most other European countries, including its closest neighbours, Sweden did not implement strict, wholesale lockdown measures in response to the pandemic. Instead, the country has largely allowed businesses and hospitality to remain open and students to attend school.
In May, Sweden’s state epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, justified this response by saying that countries that imposed strict lockdowns would likely suffer large second waves later in the year, whereas Sweden’s would be smaller.
“In the autumn there will be a second wave,” Tegnell told the Financial Times. “Sweden will have a high level of immunity and the number of cases will probably be quite low.”
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However, the strategy appears to have failed, with recent data suggesting the virus has spread faster in Sweden since Tegnell’s remarks two months ago, while failing to stimulate sufficient antibodies in the community to prevent a second wave.
A study published in May suggested that a small number of people in Stockholm, 7.3%, had developed coronavirus antibodies, casting doubt over whether Sweden could achieve herd immunity in the near future.
Sweden’s capital Stockholm has also failed to avert the same sort of economic downturn seen in other parts of Europe.
The country has in the last week recorded daily new cases of well over 1,000, up from fewer than 500 in mid-May.
5,370 people in Sweden had died after testing positive for the COVID-19 virus as of Thursday morning, putting it among the worst-affected countries in the world in terms of deaths per capita. Meanwhile, its Scandinavian neighbours have recorded much fewer deaths. Denmark has the second-highest death toll in the region with just 606 fatalities as of this morning.
As well as opting against a strict lockdown, Sweden has taken a more relaxed approach to testing than most other countries, focusing mainly on healthcare workers and people who are hospitalized and not the wider population.
The inquiry announced by Lofven will first consider why approximately half of Sweden’s deaths have taken place in its care homes, The Times of London reported.
“We did not manage to protect the most vulnerable, the elderly, despite our best intentions,” the prime minister said.
The Swedish government has previously said it is not aiming only for herd immunity, in which 60% of a population catches the virus, but that it could slow the spread of the virus enough to ensure that the capacity of its health service is not breached.
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