Sweden's chief epidemiologist Wednesday defended his country's controversial “soft” COVID-19 strategy, in which Sweden never totally shut down, but admitted the country could have done some things better.
Unlike its European neighbors and much of the rest of the world, Sweden relied on its citizens' sense of civic duty. Authorities advised people to practice social distancing, but schools, bars and restaurants have been kept open the entire time. Only gatherings of more than 50 people have been banned.
The strategy resulted in one of the highest per capita COVID-19 death rates in the world.
At a news briefing, Swedish Public Health Agency epidemiologist Anders Tegnell acknowledged that there would always be "aspects where we could have handled this situation even better than we do today, now, as we learn more and more things."
But he said Swedish authorities still thought theirs was the right strategy. Tegnell said it has worked very well in terms of containing the spread of the disease to a level that the Swedish health care system could handle. It has made it possible to keep schools open, which he said was very important for their society.
He acknowledged the “unfortunate” death toll, which he said was mainly in long-term care facilities.
In a Swedish radio interview earlier in the day, Tegnell admitted the death toll had made him reconsider his approach to the pandemic.
According to the national health agency, the nation of 10.2 million people has seen 4,542 deaths linked to COVID-19, far more than its neighboring Nordic countries and one of the world’s highest per capita death rates.
Denmark has had 580 coronavirus deaths, Finland 320 and Norway 237, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.