Sweden to shut schools until January after chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell previously warned 'it'd be disastrous'

SWEDEN will shut schools for over 16s next week until January despite the country’s chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell previously warning the move would be “disastrous”. 

From Monday, the country’s upper secondary schools will bolt their doors and instruct pupils aged 16-19 to study online at home. 

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The move comes in spite of Sweden’s decision – unique among European countries – to shun lockdown measures in a bid to reach herd immunity. 

But cases have crept up in the Scandinavian country, leading politicians to reportedly sideline scientific advisor Anders Tegnall, who led the charge on the country’s no-lockdown approach to the virus. 

Tegnell is the architect of Sweden’s unorthodox approach of not going into full lockdown and relying on voluntary measures to manage transmissions.

In August, Anders Tegnell urged countries such as the UK not to impose new lockdown restrictions, branding the move “disastrous in many ways”. 

Speaking to The Observer, Mr Tegnell said: “Lifting and closing things is really detrimental to trust and will also have a lot more negative effects than keeping some kind of level of measures all the time. 

“Opening and closing schools, for example, would be disastrous.”

But with a second wave sweeping the country, officials have been forced to change tact on its education strategy and will close upper secondary schools for a month from Monday.

And despite the country’s hopes that fewer measures would boost immunity, there seems to be little evidence of herd immunity among the population. 

Mr Tegnell admitted last week: “We see no signs of immunity in the population that are slowing down the infection right now.”

The country has recorded over 1,000 deaths in the last month – more than Finland, Norway, and Iceland combined have recorded since the start of the pandemic.

To date, Sweden has had 266,158 confirmed cases of the virus and 6,972 covid-related deaths. 

In comparison, neighbouring Norway – who started a national lockdown on March 12 – has had just 351 deaths from coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. 

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven spoke to Sweden’s teenagers ahead of school closures, saying: “You are going to need to change the way you are getting educated. 

“I fully understand that this isn’t easy, but in the current situation, it is necessary.” 

The Prime Minister told students to stay home and avoid contact with other households. 

Mr Löfven urged Swedish teens to be sensible, adding: “I trust that you are wise and understand that this is not an extended Christmas break. 

“It’s not a go-ahead for parties with friends. You are still in school and should study.” 

Schools will stay shut from December 6 to January 7, officials have confirmed – but secondary schools for pupils with special needs will still be able to visit schools for national exams and other programmes.  

The move comes as a second wave sweeps the Nordic country, with some still scientists holding out that immunity will help protect the nation.

But Director of Sweden’s public health agency Johan Carlson said the decision to shut schools was key to cutting down the amount of people circulating in public areas. 

He said: “The main purpose is to reduce crowding in society as a whole, for example in public transport. 

“But we also have a significant level of infection in this age group.” 

The country’s public health agency has also shifted guidelines to allow local bans on care home visits if deemed necessary.

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