Coronavirus: Swedish disease expert admits Covid-19 mistakes

Grant Boone
June 4, 2020

Anders Tegnell, the public face of Sweden's virus response, defended the decision not to impose the strict lockdowns seen in other countries.

Tegnell said to Swedish radio: "If we were to encounter the same disease with everything we know about it today, I think we would end up doing something in between what Sweden and the rest of the world has done".

"There are things we could have done better", he said, "but in essence I think Sweden has chosen the right path".

Still, authorities in Sweden, including Tegnell, have been criticised - and some have apologised - for failing to protect the country's elderly and nursing home residents.

Cafes, bars and restaurants and most businesses have also stayed open.

Tegnell told Swedish Radio it was not clear yet exactly what the country should have done differently, or whether the restrictions it did impose should have been introduced simultaneously rather than step by step.

Denmark has seen 580 deaths, Norway has had 237 deaths and Finland 320.

But gatherings of more than 50 people have been forbidden.

"Maybe we know that now when you start taking action off one by one, and then maybe we get some kind of lesson about what else, besides what we did, you could do without driving the total shutdown".

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Asked whether too many people in Sweden had died, he replied: "Yes, absolutely", adding that the country would have to consider in the future whether there had been a way of preventing such a high toll.

At the news conference, Tegnell made it clear that his previous statement "was an admission that we always can become better".

However, despite the admission that things could have been done differently, the scientist said it is hard to know which specific measures within the policy of lockdown have been responsible for fewer deaths.

According to Johns Hopkins University, there have been more than 40,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in that country, compared to just under 12,000 in Denmark and over 8,000 in Norway.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, who has promised an inquiry into the handling of the pandemic, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Health and Social Affairs Minister Lena Hallengren hit back.

"I'm not walking around thinking that we have a real disaster here in Sweden", Jan Arpi, a 58-year-old sales executive, told The Associated Press. "But we didn't know that the disease would enter so easily and for the spread to be so big".

Tegnell's pandemic tactics made Sweden a bit of a local pariah in the Nordics and didn't spare the Swedish economy.

As Denmark and Norway have begun opening up again, there has been growing criticism of Sweden's response, both inside the country and among its neighbours.

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