The Swedish government is warning the authorities to prepare for a SECOND WAVE corona virus this fall
Sweden has instructed its health authorities to be prepared for a second wave of coronavirus cases this fall.
The Scandinavian country says the death toll and critical cases have fallen despite the controversial decision to reject lockdown measures, but ministers warn that Sweden could be “swamped by a second wave of infections” within months.
Sweden has long prided itself that its no-lockdown strategy is more sustainable as softer restrictions will be accepted for longer, but officials said today that “regional regulation” could be introduced if outbreaks of local concern arise.
The government has been increasingly criticized for its strategy in recent weeks. The number of infections in Sweden is still high, while most of Europe is locked up.
The number of daily deaths from the Swedish coronavirus (in red) has been gradually decreasing in recent weeks, as evidenced by the moving seven-day average (in blue) – but ministers warn of a second wave
Daily cases (in yellow) have been higher in recent weeks (with the seven-day moving average in blue), but the Swedish government says this is due to higher test rates
Swedish Health Minister Lena Hallengren said today that the number of critically ill people with Covid-19 continues on a “pleasing” downward trend.
The total number of new cases was higher in June than in May, but Sweden says this is due to higher test rates and the number in intensive care units is falling.
“At the same time, we must prepare for the infection to flare up again,” said Health Minister Hallengren.
“Then it is important that we are as prepared as possible for emergencies to minimize the effects.”
Writing in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, Hallengren and two other ministers said that Sweden ‘should be well prepared for all conceivable scenarios’.
“We don’t know when this global pandemic will end. We don’t know how we’re going to be affected this fall, ”they wrote.
“We don’t know if Sweden will be overrun by a wide second wave of infections or if we’ll see several smaller local outbreaks in different parts of Sweden.
“As with most things in this pandemic, we are constantly learning more about both the evolution of the virus and how it is controlled.”
Several government agencies have been instructed to draw up plans for potential fall outbreaks – the GGD is tasked with looking at ‘regional regulations where the infection is worst’.
Sweden has never gotten further than banning visits to nursing homes and closing some schools, while bars and shops remain open during the crisis.
People were walking and sunbathing last month on a jetty in Malmö in a country that has never been shut down – which led to criticism when the death toll in Sweden was way above that of its neighbors
Health officials have previously said that a wider lockout would have been useless to prevent deaths in care homes.
The country’s National Council for Health and Welfare has been mandated to “assess which interventions are needed in health and social services.”
Sweden has confirmed 73,061 cases and 5,433 deaths since the onset of the pandemic, and the per capita infection rate is one of the highest in Europe.
Only 607 people died in Denmark, 329 in Finland and 251 in Norway – all about half the size of Sweden.
The number of deaths in Sweden was only 140 last week, compared to 227 the previous week. However, both figures are higher than the 55 deaths suffered by much more populous Germany last week or the 123 deaths registered in Italy.
The worryingly high figures have led some European countries to keep their borders closed to Sweden, even though they are starting up their tourist industry again.
Sweden is not on the UK’s ‘travel corridor’ countries list, which means that people traveling from Sweden to England will have to remain in quarantine for another 14 days after July 10.
Denmark, Finland and Norway, on the other hand, are all on the UK-approved list and the UK Foreign Office no longer discourages all essential travel there.
The magnitude of the outbreak has also led to mounting criticism at home, damaging the government’s confidence that its strategy would require consent.
Officials cite Sweden’s “high confidence in government agencies” as a reason to recommend health measures rather than maintain them.
Swedish state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell (pictured) favors the country’s strategy without a lockdown and questions the actions of other countries
Last week, Sweden announced a committee to evaluate its response to the pandemic, which is being defended by top virologist Anders Tegnell.
Tegnell has defended his strategy and questioned the lockdowns imposed by other countries, insisting that the Swedish health system is not overwhelmed by the crisis – but admitted the death toll is too high.
Regarding a possible autumn peak, he said in April, “If we want to get a second wave in many cases in the fall, we can easily continue with what we are doing today.”
The committee has a broad mandate to see how the virus arrived in Sweden, how it spread, the government’s response and its effect on equality.
“It is not a question of whether this will change Sweden – it is a question of how,” Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said at a news conference last week.
The committee will report on care for the elderly at the end of November, although the final conclusions are not expected until 2022, prior to the national elections.
The government has also pledged a further 5.9 billion kronor (£ 500 million) to improve testing and extend contact tracing across the country.
Sweden has previously raised hopes that the spread of the disease in Stockholm could build the herd’s immunity among the population.
This is achieved when enough people are immune to a disease that will not pass through the population and even those who are not immune are shielded.
However, the extent to which people become immune after recovery from the new coronavirus remains a great uncertainty.
In April, Tegnell had claimed that up to 20 percent of Stockholm residents were already immune, but a study published in May found this figure to be just 7.3 percent.
The World Health Organization has warned against raising hopes of herd immunity. Vaccine research is ongoing.