Sweden debates enforcing new coronavirus restrictions on Stockholm amid a small spike in infections.
The country's chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, who advised Sweden to avoid a full lockdown in favor of a “herd immunity” strategy, said new measures for the capital could not be ruled out.
It came just hours after the city's chief health officer warned the region that the downward trend had "broken".
The news will raise questions about whether or not Sweden has achieved "herd immunity". A coronavirus expert from Denmark suggested yesterday that the crisis in Sweden was "over".
The country currently has around 28 infections per 100,000 people. That number is less than half the UK infection rate of 69, which has risen dramatically in the past three weeks.
Meanwhile, Professor Tegnell claimed the country's success in fighting winter flu last year was the cause of the high coronavirus death toll. Older people are most susceptible to both diseases.
The Swedish chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell (picture) said new measures for the capital could not be ruled out
What is "Herd Immunity"?
Herd immunity is a situation in which a population of people is protected from a disease because so many of them are not affected – because they have already had it or have been vaccinated – that it cannot spread. In order to cause an outbreak, a disease-causing bacteria or virus must constantly have potential victims who are not immune to it.
Immunity is when your body knows exactly how to fight off a certain type of infection because it has encountered it before, either from the disease in the past or from a vaccine. When a virus or bacterium enters the body, the immune system creates substances called antibodies that are designed to destroy a specific type of insect.
Once these are created, some of them stay in the body and the body also remembers how to recreate them. In addition to T cells, antibodies offer long-term protection or immunity against a disease. If no one is immune to a disease – as was the case when the coronavirus outbreak began – it can spread like wildfire.
For example, if half of the people have immunity – to a previous infection or a vaccine – there are only half as many people to whom the disease can spread. The more people become immune, the more difficult it is for the beetle to spread until its prey pool becomes so small that it can no longer spread at all.
The threshold for herd immunity is different for different diseases depending on the infection.
The Swedish strategy of using ownership rather than bigger lockdowns to slow the virus was heavily criticized as deaths skyrocketed in the spring. Critics warned how thousands of patients could die.
Infections fell significantly in the summer and they were spared the sharp rise in new cases in Spain, France and the UK this month.
The country is currently seeing an average of less than 200 new cases per day – a number that has fallen from around 250 in the last week.
By comparison, during the height of its crisis in June, the country recorded around 1,000 infections a day.
Also, more than 100 deaths per day were announced during the darkest weeks of the crisis – suggesting tests picked up only a fraction of the disease, as the virus is estimated to kill around 0.6 percent of infected patients, many of whom are killed without know they have the disease.
Sweden recorded only 31 deaths in all of December and has remained in the single digits since July. It can take patients around 21 days to die from the disease, which means a real spike in deaths a few weeks later.
These figures have supported the claim that Sweden may have achieved some form of herd immunity through its controversial policies.
But Stockholm seems to have seen a slight increase in some cases. The Local reports that the city's test positivity rate – the number of swabs that come back positive – rose from 1.3 percent to 2.2 percent.
The test positivity rate is a sign that an outbreak is increasing as long as the number of tests performed stays the same.
The increase in new cases cannot be explained by increased testing alone, the health department said yesterday.
At the height of the crisis, Stockholm County recorded around 240 cases a day. That number fell below 100 in early July, but has now risen to an average of 44, down from 30 two weeks ago.
The Scandinavian nation was the only country in Europe that didn't put strict lockdown measures in place at the start of the pandemic. Pictured: crowds walking in Stockholm this week
Data from Swedish health chiefs shows that Skåne County – on the border with Denmark and a region with half the population of Stockholm – has the highest number of cases every day.
Professor Tegnell, who developed the Swedish pandemic strategy, said: “The moving average has increased a bit.
& # 39; It hasn't affected health care yet. The number of new cases in the intensive care unit is very low and the number of deaths is very low. & # 39;
However, he said new measures for the capital could not be ruled out due to the surge.
He said: “We are having a discussion with Stockholm about whether we need to take measures to reduce the spread of infections. That is exactly what we will come back to in the next few days. & # 39;
On Tuesday, Stockholm's top health official warned that cases in the region had increased.
Stockholm Director of Health and Medical Services Björn Eriksson said: “The downward trend has broken.
& # 39; We can only hope that this is a slip-up that the spread will decrease again. It depends on how well we follow the guidelines. & # 39;
Sweden has 5,870 deaths, much more per capita than its Nordic neighbors but fewer than countries like Spain and Italy that have opted for hard lockdowns.
The country maintained open schools for children under the age of 16, banned gatherings of more than 50 people, and urged those over 70 and vulnerable groups to self-isolate.
Shops, bars and restaurants have remained open throughout the pandemic and wearing masks has not been recommended by the government.
Professor Tegnell now claims that the country's success against seasonal flu last winter was the cause of the high death toll in Covid.
He told Dagens Nyheter: “If many people die from the flu in winter, fewer people die from heat waves the following summer. In this case, it was Covid-19 that killed many people.
“It was found that countries that have had relatively low influenza mortality in the last two or three years, such as Sweden, have a very high excess mortality in Covid-19.
& # 39; Those who have had high flu death rates, like Norway, have fairly low Covid mortality rates. The trend has been observed in several countries.
& # 39; This may not be the whole explanation, but part of it. This also explains the high mortality rates in the UK and Belgium. & # 39;
The virus has struck nursing homes in Sweden, where almost half of all deaths have occurred.
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven even admitted in May that the country had not done enough to protect people in need of protection.
Professor Tegnell admits serious mistakes were made in nursing homes, but doesn't think lockdown would have helped.
He claims residents who escaped the winter flu died as a result of the coronavirus.
Professor Kim Sneppen, an expert on the spread of coronavirus at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, said yesterday that Sweden might have beaten the pandemic.
He told Danish newspaper Politiken: “There is evidence that Swedes have built up some immunity to the virus which, along with what else they are doing to stop the spread, is enough to control the disease .
"Maybe the epidemic is over there."
He said the virus may now have run out of steam. He added, “That's what they said. On the positive side, they can now be done with the epidemic. & # 39;
(tagsToTranslate) Dailymail (t) Nachrichten (t) Sweden (t) Coronavirus