As Sweden’s COVID-19 cases continue to drop, the country’s top epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said he sees “no point” to mandating masks in public.
“With numbers diminishing very quickly in Sweden, we see no point in wearing a face mask in Sweden, not even on public transport,” he said, as reported by Fortune.
According to Newsweek, Sweden’s death rate from COVID-19 is now lower than Italy’s, the U.K.’s, and Spain’s despite having never implemented a full-scale lockdown:
As of Sunday, the latest death rate in Sweden (deaths per 100,000 people) was reported to be 56.40. The figure is lower than that reported in the U.K. (69.60), Spain (60.88) and Italy (58.16), according to the latest report Sunday by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.K. currently has the world’s fourth highest death toll, while Spain and Italy (which have the sixth highest and eighth highest death tolls, respectively) were formerly Europe’s two countries worst hit by the outbreak.
Sweden’s latest case-fatality ratio (portion of deaths compared to total cases) was reported to be 7.1 percent. The figure is more than half the percentage reported in the U.K. (15.1 percent), half that of Italy and Belgium (each reporting 14.2 percent) and nearly half that of France (13.4 percent), according to Johns Hopkins University.
In the past 14 days, new infections per 100,000 people in Sweden have dropped 46%. Conversely, Spain, France, Germany, Belgium, and The Netherlands have seen spikes between 58% and 206% in cases per 100,000 people over a 14-day period. Last Tuesday, Sweden reported no new deaths, bringing the toll to 5,702.
“That Sweden has come down to these levels is very promising,” Anders Tegnell told reporters in Stockholm on Tuesday.
“The curves are going down and the curves for the seriously ill are beginning to approach zero,” Tegnell added.
However, despite Tegnell’s optimism, he did find it “worrying” that other countries are seeing a second spike after supposedly bringing the virus under control.
“The positive trend is reversing, with an increase in the number of cases in Spain, Romania and Belgium, among others,” he said.
Just last week, the Netherlands announced it would not be instituting a face mask mandate, arguing that research shows social distancing rules prove more effective at combating the virus than masks.
“Because from a medical perspective there is no proven effectiveness of masks, the Cabinet has decided that there will be no national obligation for wearing non-medical masks,” The Netherlands’ Minister for Medical Care Tamara van Ark said.
Though RIVM chief Jaap van Dissel acknowledged studies indicating that masks may be useful in slowing the spread of COVID-19, he argued that incorrectly worn masks coupled with weak social distancing guidelines could help the virus spread.
“So we think that if you’re going to use masks (in a public setting) … then you must give good training for it,” he said.
Citizens in the Netherlands are only required to wear masks in airports and when taking public transportation.
According to the CDC, cloth masks are an effective shield against the spread of COVID-19:
This review included two case studies out today, one from JAMA, showing that adherence to universal masking policies reduced SARS-CoV-2 transmission within a Boston hospital system, and one from CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), showing that wearing a mask prevented the spread of infection from two hair stylists to their customers in Missouri.
Additional data in today’s MMWR showed that immediately after the White House Coronavirus Task Force and CDC advised Americans to wear cloth face coverings when leaving home, the proportion of U.S. adults who chose to do so increased, with 3 in 4 reporting they had adopted the recommendation in a national internet survey.
In the early stages of the pandemic here in the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, argued against wearing masks before reversing that position several weeks later. Fauci, however, maintains that he was simply following CDC guidelines to preserve PPE.