Sweden’s positive coronavirus cases dropped after the country carried out a record number of COVID-19 tests recently, Reuters reported Tuesday, citing Swedish health officials.
The country saw only 1,300 positive cases out of 120,000 tests last week, representing a 1.2% positive rate, Sweden’s health agency said Tuesday, according to the Reuters report. The low number of cases is the lowest Sweden has seen since the pandemic, which originated in China, first emerged in Europe, the report noted.
“The purpose of our approach is for people themselves to understand the need to follow recommendations and guidelines that exist,” Swedish Health Agency Director-General Johan Carlson said at a news conference, according to Reuters.
Sweden has downplayed the need for severe lockdowns to slow the spread of coronavirus, which has reportedly killed more than 898,000 people worldwide, according to data from John Hopkins University. More than 5,800 people have died in Sweden from the virus, a number lower than Italy and Spain but high among neighboring Nordic countries, data show.
Spain and France are contending with surges while Sweden’s positive case numbers are dropping, Reuters noted. Sweden has encouraged citizens to wear masks, keep a distance from one another and practice proper hygiene rather than instituting strict lockdowns, which have resulted in a severe economic downturn and mass unemployment elsewhere.
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“We probably have a lower risk of spread here compared to other countries,” Jonas Ludvigsson, a professor of epidemiology at Karolinska Institutet, told Reuters. “I think we benefit a lot from that now,” he added, referring to what he believes is Sweden’s high level of immunity.
Some health experts and media commentators have criticized Sweden’s approach.
“It seems some numbers need to be repeated. Sweden has 5,837 dead in COVID-19. A proportion five times higher than Denmark,” an editorial in Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter noted.
Sweden did not focus enough on the country’s nursing homes, where more than half of the country’s deaths have transpired, according to Sweden’s former chief epidemiologist, Annike Linde.
“There was no strategy at all for the elderly, I now understand,” Linde told Swedish Radio, according to a June Guardian report about comments from chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell.
Tegnell said in June, “I do not understand how they can stand and say the level of preparedness was good, when in fact it was lousy.”
Nearly half of all coronavirus-related deaths in Europe have occurred in nursing homes, according to The Washington Post, citing World Health Organization data in April. More than 68,600 residents and staff at nursing homes and long-term facilities across the United States have died from the coronavirus, out of more than 163,000 overall deaths, AP reported Monday, citing a running tally of data the outlet has collected so far.
The New York Times published a report in June indicating that more than 43% of deaths nationwide were in nursing homes.
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