Top epidemiologist says Sweden has no signs of herd immunity curbing coronavirus

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Sweden’s top infectious disease expert said Tuesday that the country has not seen evidence of herd immunity slowing the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

“The issue of herd immunity is difficult,” Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s state epidemiologist, said at a news briefing, according to Bloomberg News.

“We see no signs of immunity in the population that are slowing down the infection right now,” Tegnell said.

Sweden has seen a resurgence of the virus in recent weeks, with the rate of new infections more than doubling from earlier this year.

The country has recorded roughly a quarter of a million confirmed COVID-19 cases, and about 6,500 deaths from the disease, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Some U.S. officials including Dr. Scott Atlas, a member of President Trump’s coronavirus task force, have promoted a strategy of herd immunity despite repeated warnings from health experts that such a plan would be insufficient for controlling the spread of the virus or limiting deaths in the U.S.

Advocates of the idea have pointed to Sweden as an example, citing the country’s unwillingness to implement lockdown measures inhibiting public life to stop the virus’s spread.

Tegnell has fought back against those views, however, and in an interview last month pushed back against the idea that Sweden had pursued a strategy of herd immunity.

“In common with other countries we’re trying to slow down the spread as much as possible… To imply that we let the disease run free without any measures to try to stop it is not true,” Tegnell told New Statesman.

“I want to make it clear, no, we did not lock down like many other countries, but we definitely had a virtual lockdown,” Tegnell said. “Swedes changed their behavior enormously. We stopped travelling even more than our neighboring countries. The airports had no flights anywhere, the trains were running at a few per cent of normal service, so there were enormous changes in society.”

Bloomberg noted that Swedes have faced more exposure to the coronavirus than residents in other Nordic areas and data published this week showed that every third person tested in Stockholm has tested positive for antibodies.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump Scott Atlas Sweden
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