As coronavirus cases rise in pretty much all other European countries, leading to fears of a second wave including in the UK, they have been sinking all summer in Sweden. On a per capita basis, they are now 90 per cent below their peak in late June and under Norway’s and Denmark’s for the first time in five months. Tegnell had told me the first time we spoke in the spring that it would be in the autumn when it became more apparent how successful each country had been.
The epidemiologist in charge of Sweden’s coronavirus response has dismissed the scientific evidence for mask-wearing as “astonishingly weak” and suggested that making face coverings mandatory could backfire.
Anders Tegnell, the face of his country’s distinctive light-touch approach to Covid-19, said it was “very dangerous” to believe that facemasks on their own could control the spread of the disease.
He also conceded that Sweden had failed to protect its old people’s homes against the virus but said the number of new infections in the care sector had dwindled away to a negligible level since the height of the outbreak four months ago.
Dr Tegnell has steered a markedly different course from those plotted by most other European countries, leaving bars, restaurants and most schools open throughout
Swedish health experts say struggle against pandemic is ‘marathon not a sprint’
The country has one of the highest death rates from coronavirus in the world
Anders Tegnell’s refusal to impose lockdown is held up by critics as a warning
But is it possible the Scandinavian nation made the right call in the long-term?
Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s state epidemiologist, said he advised against such restrictions on movement because of the detrimental side effects they often entail.
“It was as if the world had gone mad, and everything we had discussed was forgotten,” Tegnell said in a podcast with Swedish Radio on Wednesday. “The cases became too many and the political pressure got too strong. And then Sweden stood there rather alone.”