Lockdown-free Sweden has recorded its highest death toll in a six-month period for 150 years – with 4,500 of its 51,405 fatalities being Covid-19 related.
Its the highest tally from January to the end of June since 1869 when 55,431 people died, largely because of a famine. The population of Sweden then was just 4.1million, compared to 10.3million today.
It should also be noted that Sweden remained neutral during the two world wars, whereas most European countries were experiencing the equivalent of a six-month coronavirus death toll in the course of a single battle 75 years ago.
Nevertheless, coronavirus means Sweden’s deaths are around 10 percent higher than the average over the last five years, the country’s statistics office said on Wednesday.
In April the number of deaths was almost 40 percent higher than average due to a surge in COVID-related fatalities.
Although Sweden has struggled compared to its Nordic neighbours, the country’s per capita death toll is lower than in the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy.
Sweden has been controversial for its liberal attitude to controlling the pandemic, preferring instead to let run through the population to create a ‘herd immunity.’
Its measures have focused on voluntary social distancing guidance.
Most schools have remained open and many businesses have been continued to operate to some extent, meaning the economy has fared significantly better than most.
However, the death toll has been higher than in its Nordic neighbours, which opted for tougher lockdown measures.
Norway, with around half the population, has had only around 260 COVID deaths in total.
The economy of Finland also outperformed its larger neighbour in the second quarter, despite a tougher lockdown.
Finland’s gross domestic product shrank around 5% against an 8.6% contraction in Sweden from the previous three-month period.
These figures make for light-reading compared to the 20.4 percent shrinkage in the United Kingdom in the second quarter.
Sweden’s top infectious diseases expert, Anders Tegnell, yesterday flew into fresh controversy after he argued that face masks could be ‘very dangerous.’
Dr, the architect of Sweden’s unique approach to the virus, explained that the face-coverings can make people more brash in crowded spaces, thinking that they are totally shielded by a piece of cotton.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Dr Tegnell said: ‘It is very dangerous to believe face masks would change the game when it comes to Covid-19.
‘Face masks can be a complement to other things when other things are safely in place. But to start with having face masks and then think you can crowd your buses or your shopping malls – that’s definitely a mistake.’
Dr Tegnell previously brushed off the prospect of compelling Swedes to wear face masks, and called evidence of their effectiveness ‘astonishingly weak’.
Last month Dr Tegnell’s public health agency shrugged off claims that people should wear face masks in crowded public spaces during the pandemic.
Speaking to German newspaper Bild, the coronavirus expert described ‘the belief that masks can solve our problem’ as ‘very dangerous’.
‘The findings that have been produced through face masks are astonishingly weak, even though so many people around the world wear them,’ he said.
‘I’m surprised that we don’t have more or better studies showing what effect masks actually have. Countries such as Spain and Belgium have made their populations wear masks but their infection numbers have still risen.
‘The belief that masks can solve our problem is in any case very dangerous.’
Dr Tegnell also claimed that Sweden resisted a UK-style lockdown because ‘it is a Swedish tradition that we give a lot of responsibility to individuals’.
He previously told the Mail on Sunday he had been ‘following’ the UK in resisting full lockdown and was ‘disappointed’ when we abruptly altered our strategy.
‘I am very sceptical of lockdowns altogether but if you ever do them, you should do them at an early stage,’ he added, referring to Britain’s delay in acting.
‘At certain times I suppose they can be useful, if you are unprepared and need more intensive care facilities… but you are really just pushing the problem ahead of you.’
Sweden’s Covid-19 expert comes under fire for appearing to ask whether a higher death rate in old people was a fair price to pay for herd immunity.