Coronavirus: Sweden admits it would have done more to lock down ‘if we knew what we know today’

Kate Ng
State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell of the Public Health Agency of Sweden attends a daily coronavirus news conference: EPA

Sweden’s state epidemiologist, who led the country’s controversial approach to tackling the coronavirus pandemic, has admitted more restrictions on movement and gatherings would have helped avoid a high death toll.

Speaking to local radio station Sveriges Radio, Andre Tegnell agreed with the interviewer that too many people had died in Sweden.

The Scandinavian country now has the highest per capita death rate in the world, four times higher than that of its Nordic neighbours.

The Swedish government chose to ignore advice from countless health experts to lock the country down, and has kept things largely business-as-usual during the pandemic. Primary and secondary schools, restaurants, cafes and shops remained open and gatherings up to 50 people were still allowed.

Officials relied on people voluntarily practising social distancing and opting to work from home, putting the responsibility not to spread the virus squarely on the shoulders of the population.

But Health and Social Affairs Minister Lena Hallengren hit back: "The government has been, at all times, prepared to introduce wider, further measures recommended by the expert authority," she told Reuters.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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interview with science journal Nature

more Swedes died in April