Sweden’s top infectious disease expert admitted Wednesday that his controversial coronavirus strategy of avoiding a strict lockdown resulted in too many deaths, according to a report.
As the country’s fatality rate soars, its chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell — whose light-touch approach left many businesses and schools open as the pandemic raged — told Swedish Radio he should have implemented stricter policies.
“If we were to encounter the same illness with the same knowledge that we have today, I think our response would land somewhere in between what Sweden did and what the rest of the world has done,” Tegnell told the station. “Clearly, there is potential for improvement in what we have done.”
Earlier this week, Sweden’s death rate per capita emerged as the highest in the world, according to The Guardian. At 43 fatalities per 100,000, it has far surpassed neighboring countries such as Denmark and Norway, which have imposed tougher stay-at-home orders.
During the pandemic, Swedes have been able to dine at restaurants, go shopping, attend gyms and send kids under age 16 to school.
Tegnell — the brains behind those measures — has argued that a relaxed response to the virus would be more sustainable long-term than severe and sudden lockdowns.
While his strategy was widely supported in Sweden, it was both hotly criticized and praised in other countries.
On Wednesday, some Swedish politicians were stunned by Tegnell’s admission that he may have screwed up.
“Astonishing,” Jimmie Akesson, of the Sweden Democrats, tweeted. “For months, [his] critics have been consistently dismissed. Sweden has done everything right, the rest of the world has done it wrong. And now, suddenly, this.”
There’s limited evidence showing Sweden’s decision to leave businesses open has boosted the country’s economy, according to Bloomberg News.
Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson has warned that Sweden is facing its worst economic crisis since World War II, with gross domestic product set to slump 7 percent in 2020 — roughly as much as the rest of the European Union, the outlet reported.
On Monday, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven vowed to investigate the handling of the crisis before the end of the month.