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Sweden addresses COVID-19 response shortcoming

June 3, 2020

The Scandinavian country has come in for widespread criticism for not imposing the strict lockdowns seen elsewhere. Sweden has one of the highest death rates per capita from the novel virus in the world.

Schweden Stockholm | Coronavirus | Menschenansammlungen
Image: Getty Images/AFP/J. Nackstrand

Sweden's chief epidemiologist and the man many have cited as the architect behind the country's relaxed approach to the pandemic has admitted there is "potential for improvement" to the nation's response.

Anders Tegnell, of the Public Health Agency, told Swedish radio on Wednesday: "I think there is potential for improvement in what we have done, quite clearly." 

"If we were to encounter the same disease again, knowing precisely what we know about it today, I think we would settle on doing something in between what Sweden did and what the rest of the world has done,'' he added. 

The Scandinavian country has received widespread criticism for not imposing similar strict restrictions seen elsewhere in Europe. Sweden has one of the highest death rates per capita in the world from the novel coronavirus.

Read more: Sweden launches probe into handling of pandemic

The Swedish model was based around relying on citizens' civic duty to slow the spread of the virus rather than imposing widespread restrictions. Gatherings of more than 50 people were banned, but schools, restaurants and bars remained open.

Sweden, a nation of 10.2 million people, has seen 4,542 deaths linked to the novel coronavirus, a figure far in excess to those recorded by its Nordic neighbors. Denmark has registered 580 deaths, Finland has seen 321 and Norway has had 237, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Read moreCoronavirus in Sweden: Anguished foreigners call it quits

Denmark, which will reopen to much of Europe this month, has postponed a decision on when to do the same with its border with Sweden, largely due to lingering doubts over the efficacy of its neighbor's measures to control the outbreak.

Authorities in Sweden, including Tegnell, have been criticized — and some have subsequently apologized for failing to protect the country's elderly and nursing home residents.

Lawmakers across the political spectrum have also joined the chorus of disapproval and Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven announced on Monday that the country will launch an inquiry into its handling of the pandemic before the end of the summer.

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jsi/stb (AP, AFP)