SWEDEN’S top coronavirus expert has been blasted for appearing to ask whether a higher death rate was a fair price for herd immunity, bombshell emails show.
Anders Tegnell decided against a lockdown in the country which has suffered a higher death toll than their Scandinavian neighbours.
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Messages sent by Mr Tegnell, and obtained by journalists through freedom of information laws, appear to show him discussing keeping schools open to encourage herd-immunity.
The publication of the emails, which date back five months, has sparked criticism of Sweden’s liberal approach to the pandemic.
In a reported brainstorming session with Finnish scientist Mika Salminen in March, Tegnell said: “One point would be to keep schools open to reach herd immunity faster.”
In response, Salminen said Finland’s health agency had considered this but decided against the idea because “over time, the children are still going to spread the infection to other age groups.”
His modelling showed that closing schools would reduce the spread of the deadly coronavirus by 10 per cent.
At this point, Tegnell replied: “10% might be worth it?”
Sweden’s kept schools open during the height of the pandemic for children under the age of 16 and insisted on full attendance.
In fact, families faced fines of their kids did not attend.
However, following the release of the email exchange, Tegnell has strongly denied this was done to accelerate herd immunity among the population.
He said: “My comment was on a possible effect, not on an expected one, that was part of the assessment of the appropriateness of the measure.
“Keeping schools open to gain immunity was therefore never relevant.”
Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet claims that several requested emails were deleted in a batch of more than 200 from January to April.
Sweden did ban groups of 50 people or more and advised citizens to observe social distancing but kept businesses, bars and shops open while the pandemic was raging earlier this summer.
Last week, new research showed that Sweden’s herd immunity push appears to have failed as only 15 per cent of residents have antibodies.
However the study’s lead author, Professor David Goldsmith, says it’s too soon to “judge” as it’ll take up to two years to gauge the full impact of the measures.
While officials predicted that 40 per cent of Stockholm’s population would have become infected with the bug and acquired antibodies by May, the figure was around 15 per cent, says the University College London report.
Professor Goldsmith said: “It is clear the rates of viral infection, hospitalisation and mortality (per million population) are much higher than those seen in neighbouring Scandinavian countries.”
He added: “Also the time-course of the epidemic in Sweden is different, with continued persistence of higher infection and mortality well beyond the few critical weeks period seen in Denmark, Finland and Norway.”
According to stats from Worldometers, Sweden has had 5,790 deaths from coronavirus, compared to 621 in Denmark, 334 in Finland and 261 in Norway.