Sweden could have 'herd immunity' next month, says health chief in row over relaxed lockdown and rising deaths
SWEDEN could achieve "herd immunity" as early as next month, according to the country's health chief.
Swedish state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, who flanks PM Stefan Lofven at TV briefings, said pressure on the country's health care services appeared to be easing.
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In comparison to most EU countries, primary schools, and public gatherings of 50 people are still allowed in Sweden while shops are also open – with no new laws in place to crack down.
The Swedish government have asked – rather than ordered – people to avoid non-essential travel, work from home and stay indoors if they are over 70 or are feeling unwell.
More than 1,500 have now died of coronavirus in Sweden.
With the country's approach being closely scrutinised, Dr Tegnell indicated the population in Stockholm, the centre of Sweden's epidemic, could achieve "herd immunity" as early as next month.
He said: "We're still at the level we were at a couple of weeks ago. There was some kind of peak before the Easter weekend, and now there's some kind of downturn.
"According to our modellers, we are starting to see so many immune people in the population in Stockholm that it is starting to have an effect on the spread of the infection," he said.
"Our models point to some time in May.
These are mathematical models, they're only as good as the data we put into them. We will see if they are right."
The Swedish government has defended its approach of pursuing relatively relaxed policies to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
However they admitted the situation in care homes across the country was a "big problem area".
Sweden's death rate is much higher than in its Nordic neighbours, but it remains comfortably better off than much more locked-down countries of a similar population size such as Belgium.
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Dr Tegnell told The Sun last week that socialising in Sweden was far safer than in Britain, where the pub culture brings strangers closer together.
He said: "Every country is taking risks now because nobody knows the answer.
"But it's not the same as socialising in your pub in the UK – you need to adapt your measures to your culture."
Lena Einhorn, a virologist who has been strongly critical of Sweden's strategy, told the Sunday Telegraph she was in disbelief that Dr Tegnell could present this week's figures as good news.
She said: "In Finland on Thursday the cumulative number was 13 dead per million inhabitants, in Sweden it was 130 per million inhabitants. Finland: 75 dead, Norway: 152 dead, Sweden: 1,333 dead.
"And yet Anders Tegnell is saying 'we are feeling very hopeful'. What are they hopeful about?"
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