Coronavirus: Man behind Sweden's COVID-19 response admits mistakes were made

People sit at a restaurant in Stockholm, Sweden's capital. (Getty)

Sweden should have done more to contain coronavirus and keep the death rate from the infection lower, the man in charge of the country’s pandemic strategy has said.

The country currently has the highest death rate from the virus in the world, according to figures published by Our World In Data.

As of 28 May, Sweden reported 5.50 COVID-19 deaths per million per day (on a seven-day rolling average).

Around 4,500 Swedes have died from the virus – giving it a higher mortality rate than in neighbouring countries Denmark, Norway and Finland.

As criticism grows over the decision not to impose lockdown measures as strictly as elsewhere in Europe, Anders Tegnell, chief epidemiologist at Sweden’s Public Health Agency, said that in hindsight the nation should have done more.

Swedish epidemiologist Anders Tegnell admits mistakes have been made. (Getty)
Rush hour in Stockholm. (Getty)

“If we were to run into the same disease, knowing exactly what we know about it today, I think we would end up doing something in between what Sweden did and what the rest of the world has done,” he said.

“Yes, I think we could have done better in what we did in Sweden, clearly.”

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Sweden’s response to coronavirus has instead relied more on voluntary measures, social distancing and common-sense hygiene advice than other European countries.

It shut care homes to visitors in late March, but around half of the deaths in the country have been among elderly people living in care facilities.

Prime minister Stefan Lofven said the government would launch an inquiry into its handling of the pandemic.

Tegnell’s admission came after former British government adviser Professor Neil Ferguson said on Tuesday that the UK had let in thousands of people from affected areas like Spain and Italy before officials realised the extent of the pandemic. 

The UK also has one of the highest death rates from coronavirus in the world.

Prof Ferguson told the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee: “But it’s clear that before we were even in a position to measure it, before surveillance systems were set up, there were many hundreds, if not thousands, of infected individuals who came into the country in late February and early March from that area [Spain and Italy].

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“And that meant the epidemic was further ahead than we anticipated which explains some of the acceleration of policy then, but it also explains why, to some extent, why mortality figures ended up being higher than we had hoped.”

The Home Office previously said scientific advice suggested quarantine and other border measures to detect coronavirus would not have made a worthwhile impact on stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Authorities have since announced a 14-day quarantine period for anyone who enters the UK.

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