Sweden’s chief epidemiologist has doubled down on his optimism regarding the coronavirus in his country, asserting that in a matter of weeks herd immunity could be reached in Sweden’s capital, Stockholm.
Dr. Anders Tegnell, chief epidemiologist at Sweden’s Public Health Agency, told CNBC, “In major parts of Sweden, around Stockholm, we have reached a plateau (in new cases) and we’re already seeing the effect of herd immunity and in a few weeks’ time we’ll see even more of the effects of that. And in the rest of the country, the situation is stable.” He added that sampling and modeling data showed 20% of Stockholm’s population is already immune to the coronavirus, and that “in a few weeks’ time we might reach herd immunity and we believe that is why we’re seeing a slow decline in cases, in spite of sampling (testing for the coronavirus) more and more.”
He added, “Unfortunately the mortality rate is high due to the introduction (of the virus) in elderly care homes and we are investigating the cause of that.”
Earlier in the week, Tegnell had stated, “According to our modelers, we are starting to see so many immune people in the population in Stockholm that it is starting to have an effect on the spread of the infection. Our models point to some time in May.” Acknowledging the roughly 1,500 people who have died in his country as well as the 14,385 people in Sweden who have tested positive for coronavirus, Tegnell said the situation “is not a failure for the overall strategy. It is a failure to protect our elderly who live in care homes,” as the New York Daily News reported. Tegnell told the Swedish news agency TT, “We’re on a sort of plateau.” He also stated, “We’re still at the level we were at a couple of weeks ago. There was some kind of peak before the Easter weekend, and now there’s some kind of downturn,” according to The Telegraph.
Last Friday, Karin Tegmark Wisell, head of the microbiology department at Sweden’s Public Health Authority, said, “The trend we have seen in recent days, with a more flat curve — where we have many new cases, but not a daily increase — is stabilizing. We are seeing the same pattern for patients in intensive care.”
CNBC noted, “The major part of Sweden’s 15,322 confirmed cases are in Stockholm and its surrounding areas, with very small incidences of the virus in the rest of Sweden — a country of around 10 million that has a low population density outside its urban hubs.”
Tegnell said the added numbers from further testing were reflected in the number of confirmed cases not declining more quickly. He said the nation, which has a population of roughly 10 million, is testing roughly 20,000 people a week and wants to increase that to 100,000 weekly in a few weeks
Tegnell asserted that he was “fairly confident” in the strategy pursued currently but restrictions that are in place should be kept for the moment. He said, “A big part of the country has not been affected at all yet. (But) if you look at the exit strategies that now many countries have opted for, they look very much like Sweden’s.”
CNBC added, “Sweden’s government has advocated working from home if at all possible and to avoid nonessential travel and social contact with the elderly. Meanwhile, restaurants, bars, cafes and nightclubs have been offering seated table service only, and gatherings of more than 50 people have been banned. Yet schools for under 16-year-olds have remained open and life has generally carried on as before, just at a quieter pace.”
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