The number of elderly deaths from coronavirus in Sweden is a ‘big failure’, the country’s ambassador to the US has said.
Karin Ulrika Olofsdotter said 90 per cent of those who died in Sweden were over 70, meaning that around 2,700 elderly people have died of the virus.
Sweden has banned visits to care homes in one of its few restrictions after deciding against a full-scale lockdown, but Sweden’s top virologist Anders Tegnell has previously admitted that more should have been done to protect the elderly.
The total death toll passed 3,000 today – a milestone which Tegnell had called a ‘horrifyingly large number’ when he warned it was coming.
Another 99 fatalities were added to the tally today, taking the death toll from 2,941 to 3,040, while 705 new cases brought the total from 23,918 to 24,623.
Sweden recorded 99 new deaths today, the highest figure for a week – bringing the death toll over the ‘horrifying’ threshold of 3,000
Sweden’s daily tally of coronavirus cases was 705 today, only marginally higher than yesterday’s 702, taking the total from 23,918 to 24,623
The ambassador in Washington was asked about Sweden’s strategy last night by conservative TV host Tucker Carlson on Fox News.
Describing the few restrictions that Sweden has imposed, she said: ‘We advocate social distancing, people older than 70 should stay at home which they mostly adhere to.
‘We have regulated so that it’s now forbidden to visit people in elderly care homes, and that’s where we unfortunately have seen the biggest loss of life among elderly people.
’90 per cent of the 3,000 people who have died in Sweden have been older than 70, that’s of course a big failure we have and it’s something that we’re working on.’
Sweden has previously argued that a wider lockdown would be obsolete because it would not prevent deaths in retirement homes when visits are already banned.
Tegnell, the chief epidemiologist, has estimated that around half of Sweden’s deaths are taking place in care homes.
Bars and restaurants have remained open even in worst-hit Stockholm while primary schools have continued teaching without interruption.
The country has faced criticism because its rate of cases and deaths is higher than in Denmark, Norway or Finland.
Sweden’s ambassador to the United States, Karin Ulrika Olofsdotter (pictured), said 90 per cent of people who have died of coronavirus in Sweden were over 70
The ambassador said that around 25 per cent of people in Stockholm are now thought to have immunity from the disease.
She said the figure had risen from 10 per cent just three weeks ago, adding that a study was currently underway to calculate the figure for the whole of Sweden.
Stockholm accounts for around 9,000 of the total 24,623 cases, unsurprisingly in a country where some areas are very remote.
Sweden says that ‘herd immunity’ is not a strategy in itself but virologists hope that a growing level of immunity will slow the spread of the disease.
Herd immunity is achieved when so many people are immune that even those who are not immune will be safe from the virus because it will not spread.
Although the concept has been much discussed, it is not yet certain whether every recovered coronavirus patient becomes immune or for how long.
Governments hope that mass immunity will eventually be delivered by a vaccine, but this is not yet available.
People socialise in a park in Stockholm last week in an outdoor gathering which has been out of the question in Britain since March 23
Sweden’s health minister Lena Hallengren (centre) watches health worker Gun Bjorling (right) carry out a coronavirus test at a drive-in centre in Stockholm yesterday
Scientists around the world are racing to develop such a vaccine, but most experts say it is likely to be many months away at least.
With that in mind, the Swedish government says its lockdown-free strategy is more sustainable because milder measures will be accepted for longer.
Governments in Britain, Germany and elsewhere have all come under pressure to lift their economically crippling lockdowns in recent weeks.
‘We also realise that this is a marathon, we will be at this for a long time so we have to build a strategy that we can keep for a long time,’ the Swedish ambassador said.
‘My country’s a bit different, people have big trust in the government offices and the public agencies, and the government and the politicians trust the population, so that’s the fundamental of how we can build this strategy.’
Officials also say that Sweden’s healthcare system has not been overwhelmed despite the lack of a lockdown.
‘The curves show that we have, to a large extent, been successful in keeping [the outbreak] within the limits of what the healthcare system can manage,’ Tegnell said.