Schools, restaurants and hair salons across Sweden have remained open amid the Covid-19 pandemic, which has infected upwards of 3.2million people globally.
The World Health Organisation yesterday praised the Scandinavian country as a ‘model’ in the fight against the virus, claiming there are ‘lessons to be learned’ from the nation’s response.
Dr Mike Ryan, an emergencies expert at WHO, said: ‘I think there’s a perception out that Sweden has not put in control measures and just has allowed the disease to spread, nothing can be further from the truth.’
But Trump claimed Sweden paid the price for its response, writing in a tweet this afternoon: ‘Despite reports to the contrary, Sweden is paying heavily for its decision not to lockdown.
President Donald Trump (pictured) said Sweden is ‘paying heavily’ for not enforcing a coronavirus lockdown as deaths in the Scandinavian nation continue to rise
But Trump has questioned the country’s response, writing in a tweet this afternoon: ‘Despite reports to the contrary, Sweden is paying heavily for its decision not to lockdown’
‘As of today, 2462 people have died there, a much higher number than the neighbouring countries of Norway (207), Finland (206) or Denmark (443).
‘The United States made the correct decision!’
Following Trump’s comments, Sweden announced its second-highest jump in cases with 790 new infections – at a time when much of Europe is seeing a slowdown in numbers.
The rise from 20,302 cases to 21,092 came alongside 124 more deaths, bringing the total from 2,462 to 2,586.
The US has currently confirmed 1,053,036 cases of Covid-19, with the death toll yesterday surpassing Trump’s ‘best case’ scenario of 60,000.
But Sweden has a higher daily death rate per million people, today recording 7.43 deaths per million against 6.12 in the US.
People sit outdoors in a park in Stockholm last weekend, enjoying a freedom to go outside which has been heavily restricted in most of Europe
A nurse wearing protective clothing and a face mask looks at blood on an oxygenation machine as she attends to a patient at a hospital near Stockholm earlier this month
However, new data also shows the US has a significantly higher number of daily infections per million. It today reported 82.36 infections per million against Sweden’s 67.43.
But Sweden’s neighbours have recorded a much lower number of coronavirus deaths in total, with 443 confirmed in Denmark amid 9,158 cases – a difference not adequately explained by the size of their populations.
Denmark has already sent children back to primary schools and re-opened some businesses including hair salons and driving schools.
Finland, which declared a state of emergency on March 16 and enforced a lockdown on April 1, currently has 4,995 cases of the virus, with Norway reporting 7,710.
The 790 new cases reported by Sweden today mark its second worst-leap so far, after a rise of 812 was recorded last Friday.
The daily number of cases in Sweden, shown on this graph, was back up to 790 today – the second highest on record, after last Friday’s 812
This chart shows the daily number of deaths, which has been heavily affected by delays in reporting weekend cases. Today’s figure is 124 new deaths
Although Sweden’s figures have been very susceptible to rogue numbers caused by weekend delays, official figures show that 774 new positive tests did actually occur yesterday.
The nation, despite not having enforced the strict lockdown measures adopted by the majority of Europe, has banned gatherings of more than 50 people, closed secondary schools and university campuses and asked at-risk groups to self-isolate.
However, schools for younger children, restaurants and many businesses have remained open to the public.
Dr Ryan added: ‘What [Sweden] has done differently is it has very much relied on its relationship with its citizenry and the ability and willingness of its citizens to implement self-distancing and self-regulate.’
Sweden’s top virologist admits mistakes in reacting to coronavirus as country records second-highest number of daily infections
By Tim Stickings for MailOnline
The virologist leading Sweden‘s relaxed response to the coronavirus pandemic has acknowledged mistakes in reacting to the crisis – as the country recorded a near-record number of new infections today.
Anders Tegnell said too little was done to protect people in care homes, which are thought to account for as many as half of Sweden’s 2,586 deaths.
Speaking on SVT television, he accepted he was wrong to predict that the virus would be contained in Wuhan, but said he did not have a ‘crystal ball’.
However, Tegnell is not backing down on his lockdown-free strategy – which Sweden believes is more effective in the long term.
Sweden’s top epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, right, has admitted a series of errors in the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic
He said in January that there was ‘no need to worry’ about the virus, arguing at the time that there was no reason to shut down travel from China.
The public health chief spoke confidently about Wuhan’s ability to contain the epidemic, saying that the new virus did not appear especially contagious.
A statement from Tegnell’s Public Health Agency said on January 16 that the risk of the infection spreading to Sweden was ‘very low’.
Asked about those predictions on Tuesday night, Tegnell said he was ‘far from alone in this assessment’.
His initial optimism was based on the SARS and MERS outbreaks – two previous coronaviruses which had not led to a pandemic, he said.
SARS resulted in around 8,000 cases around the world while MERS caused only around 2,500 infections.
Tegnell was also asked about the influx of new cases from Italy, some of them linked to ski trips when the government was not advising against them.
This graph shows the number of deaths per million, which has mostly been higher in Sweden than in Denmark, although Sweden’s figures tend to fluctuate wildly at weekends
Not until March 6 did Sweden advise against non-essential travel to northern Italy, the first major epicentre of the crisis in Europe.
Tegnell said on Tuesday that the government based its strategy on information coming from Italy, which it regarded as reliable.
‘The virus was much more unpredictable than we initially thought. After all, developments in Italy became violent, even though Italy had taken drastic measures to begin with,’ Tegnell said.
He added: ‘We have to make an assessment based on where we stand. We can’t try to look in a crystal ball and try to guess how it will be going forward.’
On top of that, Tegnell blamed ‘a lot of different players’ for a failure to improve elderly care ‘before we got into the situation we are in today’.
Tegnell said the virus appeared to have spread more rapidly in Swedish care homes than in some other countries, but said it was not clear why.
Swedes have been banned from visiting care homes in one of the few restrictive measures that the government has imposed.