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The scientist behind Sweden’s decision to impose one of the lightest coronavirus lockdowns of any European country has admitted the approach has not been effective and has led to one the highest death tolls per capita in the world.
Sweden’s relatively soft approach to combating the virus had attracted international attention and was lauded by those who argued lockdowns were unnecessarily damaging to economies.
Large gatherings were banned but restaurants and schools for younger children have stayed open.
But then the death toll started to rise sharply.
Some 4,468 Swedes have died whereas Denmark and Norway, which both border the country but imposed much stricter lockdowns, have seen 580 and 237 deaths respectively.
Per capita, Sweden has the 7th highest death toll in the world, behind San Marino, Belgium, Andorra, Spain, the UK and Italy.
The current situation is even bleaker with Sweden currently having the highest seven day rolling average death toll of any country with population of over one million.
Speaking to Sveriges Radio, Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, said: “If we would encounter the same disease, with exactly what we know about it today, I think we would land midway between what Sweden did and what the rest of the world did.
“There is quite obviously a potential for improvement in what we have done in Sweden. It would be good to know exactly what to close down to better prevent the spread of the virus.”
AP journalist Phelan Chatterjee said on Tuesday that the “deaths have exposed cracks in the Swedish nation, leaving some in disproportionately affected groups wondering how much their lives really matter”.
He added: “Even as transmission slows, Sweden’s death toll has soared to over 4,200 — four to nine times higher per capita than Nordic neighbours. Antibody levels are disappointingly low. A sense of unease finally seeps into the national debate, expanding as the nights contract.”
Asked about the approach in Sweden, former UK government advisor Professor Neil Ferguson said on Tuesday he had the “greatest respect for scientists there” who “came to a different policy conclusion but based really on quite similar science”.
He added: “They make the argument that countries will find it very hard to really stop second waves… I don’t agree with it but scientifically they are not that far from scientists in any country in the world.”
Prof Ferguson said Sweden was not, however, now seeing a decline in death rates most European countries are seeing.
“But nevertheless it is interesting that adopting a policy which is short of a full lockdown… they’ve gone quite a long way to (achieving) the same effect.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.