The laxer approach to containing the virus has drawn both praise and indignation from across the globe. What is beyond debate, however, is the effect the strategy has had on the country’s death toll.
At 43 deaths per 100,000, Sweden’s death rate is among the highest globally and far exceeds that of neighbouring Denmark and Norway, which imposed much tougher lockdowns at the outset of the pandemic.
Now, Tegnell has for the first time admitted publicly that the strategy is resulting in too many deaths.
“Clearly, there is potential for improvement in what we have done in Sweden,” he said.
Until now, Tegnell had argued that the long-term nature of the COVID-19 pandemic required a more sustainable response than severe and sudden lockdowns. Despite criticism from abroad, Tegnell’s strategy enjoyed widespread support in Sweden.
But with many other European Union countries now rolling back their lockdowns after appearing to bring COVID-19 under control, there are signs that Sweden may be left behind. That includes the freedom of movement of its citizens, as some EU countries restrict access to people coming from what are deemed high-risk COVID zones.
What’s more, there’s so far limited evidence that Sweden’s decision to leave much of its society open will support the economy. Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson recently warned that Sweden is facing its worst economic crisis since World War II, with GDP set to slump 7per cent in 2020, roughly as much as the rest of the EU.
The government has started to grow concerned at the apparent missteps taken to fight the spread of the virus in Sweden. On Monday, Lofven promised there’d be an inquiry into the handling of the crisis before the summer.
Some lawmakers in Sweden’s Parliament were quick to weigh in. Jimmie Akesson, the leader of the anti immigration Sweden Democrats, tweeted that the comments by Tegnell are “astonishing.”
“For months, critics have been consistently dismissed. Sweden has done everything right, the rest of the world has done it wrong. And now, suddenly, this,” Akesson said.