Mask-free Sweden is close to ZERO daily Covid deaths as country’s chief epidemiologist plays down fears over Delta variant’s infectiousness
- In last 14 days, Sweden recorded average of less than one Covid death per day
- Compares with 74 deaths in UK and 329 deaths in US per day over same period
- Sweden dropped its last remaining mask rule – for public transport – on July 1
- But health chiefs in UK and US warn masks must remain because of Delta variant
Mask-free Sweden is approaching zero Covid deaths per day while the country’s chief epidemiologist has swatted away fears over the Delta variant’s infectiousness.
In the last two weeks, Sweden has recorded an average of 0.6 Covid deaths per day, this compares with 74 fatalities in the UK and 329 deaths in US per day over the same period.
Although it has the highest per capita death toll of its Scandinavian neighbours, Sweden has kept its economy afloat throughout the pandemic with its reluctance to enforce tough social distancing rules or lockdowns.
At the beginning of July it dropped its last remaining mask mandate – for public transport – while health chiefs in the US and the UK are arguing that face coverings must still to be worn to stop the spread of the rampant Delta (Indian) variant.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday warned the Delta variant was as infectious as chickenpox – but Anders Tegnell, the architect of Sweden’s Covid strategy, cautioned against such sweeping analogies.
In the last two weeks, Sweden has recorded an average of less than one Covid death per day, this compares with 74 fatalities in the UK and 329 deaths in US per day over the same period
The epidemiologist said there is still ‘a lot we do not know’ about the Delta strain and that it was wrong to draw any ‘far-reaching conclusions.’
Speaking to the Aftonbladet newspaper, Tegnell said that the Delta variant was the dominant strain in Sweden and had been circulating for ‘for quite some time.’
He told the paper: ‘It is difficult to say how contagious Delta is, [as] when it comes to chickenpox, we have been able to follow the disease for several years.
‘The infectiousness [of Delta] seems to be very uneven – in some cases, one person infects a hundred people, then we have other occasions when an infected person does not infect anyone at all.’
Sweden’s chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell warned against sweeping analogies about the Delta variant such as that drawn by the CDC in comparing its infectiousness to chickenpox
He said that the spread of the Delta variant was highest among young people who are not adhering to social distancing guidelines as much as older citizens.
But despite zero infections being recorded in many municipalities, Tegnell by no means believes the pandemic is over.
‘There is a need for preparedness and attention everywhere. One should not draw any conclusions from the fact that no sick people have been found in a municipality this week. It can lead to serious consequences if you drop your guard,’ he said.
On Monday, Tegnell announced plans for booster vaccine doses for the most vulnerable citizens from the start of September.
‘The assessment is that it is not possible to eradicate the virus and therefore vaccination work should be long-term and focused on reducing serious illness and death,’ the health chief said.
Sweden’s department of health said it expected the entire adult population will have received two jabs by autumn, and that there will be a good supply of vaccine over the coming years.
The authority did not give an exact figure for how many people would get a third jab next year, but said that a large part of the population would be offered another jab.
This follows similar declarations in Britain, Germany and Israel.
Boris Johnson wants boosters to be offered to 32 million Britons from next month, The Telegraph reported on Monday.
Over 50s and immunosuppressed people, along with NHS and care home staff will be offered third doses from as soon as September 6.
The vaccines will be administered at up to 2,000 pharmacies, with the goal of 2.5m per week. And they will be dished out at the same time as flu jabs, ministers hope.
No10 is aiming to get the most vulnerable groups jabbed by mid-December, so the vaccine has at least fortnight to kick in before Christmas, the paper reported.
All eligible adults are expected to get a dose of Pfizer, regardless of which vaccine they received for their first two injections.
Latest data from Public Health England suggests the Pfizer injection is slightly more effective against the Indian ‘Delta’ stain, which could encourage the Government to adopt the mix-and-match strategy.
But Department of Health bosses have yet to confirm any official details of the UK’s booster scheme, with ministers waiting on final advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
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