“Taking measures and closing things is really detrimental to confidence and will also have a lot more negative effects than always maintaining some kind of level of measures. Opening and closing schools, for example, would be disastrous.” The warning comes from Sweden, a country that has followed a different strategy to combat the pandemic.
In statements to the Observer, the Sunday edition of Guardian, the chief epidemiologist of the Public Health Agency of that country, Anders Tegnell, was against recent restrictive measures, such as those taken in the United Kingdom or Norway, to re-impose quarantine restrictions or to re-advise citizens not to travel after an increase in cases of infection.
“We try to put in place measures that are sustainable over time, instead of jumping from an extremely high level of measures to nowhere,” said Tegnell.
While the measures set by the Swedish authorities were certainly the least restrictive on the planet – social distance and teleworking and schools for those over 16 without face-to-face classes – Sweden maintained the same measures in force while other countries lifted restrictions as of April and ended up going back.
The Swedish strategy, which tried to reconcile economic activity with the control of the pandemic, was highly controversial for international observers. And it also ended up being a topic of national debate in June, when the country came to have, for a short period of time, the mortality rate per capita highest in the world.
The leader of the Swedish Democratic populists called for the resignation of the chief epidemiologist due to the high number of deaths, which stands at 5,763, when his neighbors Denmark, Norway and Finland together total 1204 deaths.
Tegnell said the turning point for the pandemic in Sweden took place in early July, with an abrupt drop in new cases and deaths. At the beginning of July, it had more than 150 new cases daily and now has about 30.
He himself does not know the reasons for this, although he points to group immunity as a hypothesis. “It is difficult for us to understand exactly why this happened at that time and why it was so fast and sudden,” he said. “But we believe that the growing number of immune people in the population must have something to do with it.”
Tegnell said the big question is what will happen when part of the Swedes leave their huts and return to cities, school and work. In late July, Tegnell advised workers to continue working from home.
“We have always tried to establish sustainable measures and demonstrate resistance in the long-term work that we will have to do to combat this pandemic,” then argued the chief epidemiologist.
With the first major wave of infections over in most European countries, Tegnell said he hoped a new pattern would develop in Sweden. “Most likely, we will continue to have a spread in society, but at a low level, it is expected to be even lower than we have now. Although there is always a risk of outbreaks. I do not believe that we will have huge outbreaks, but the more likely we will have outbreaks similar to those that many other countries have had. “
Regarding the economy, Sweden contracted 8.2% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the second quarter of this year compared to the same period of 2019 and 8.6% when compared to the first quarter of the year. Historical figures, but not as disastrous as the EU average (-14.4%) compared to the same period in 2019.