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Unlike other countries affected by the deadly virus, the Swedish government did not introduce a compulsory lockdown. Throughout the health crisis, restaurants, bars and businesses have for the most part remained open, and people have not been forced to confine themselves to their homes. The herd immunity policy, championed by the country’s chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, aims to create a situation where enough people develop a natural immunity to the deadly virus, thereby preventing it from spreading in the future.
The approach has provoked criticism at home and abroad from public health experts who claim there is no scientific proof antibodies provide long lasting immunity from the virus.
Researchers examined some 1,100 tests from across the country, although only the figures for Stockholm were released.
On Wednesday the Swedish Health Agency estimated a third of the population of Stockholm have now had the virus and a limited herd immunity has set in.
Mr Tegnell said: “It is a little bit lower than expected but not remarkably lower, maybe one or a couple of percent.
“It squares pretty well with the models we have.”
However, Bjorn Olsen, Professor of Infectious Medicine at Uppsala University, and a fierce critic of Sweden’s pandemic response, told Reuters that the herd immunity approach appeared to have failed.
He said: “I think herd immunity is a long way off, if we ever reach it.”
Critics have described the Public Health Agency’s decision to pursue herd immunity as a “dangerous and unrealistic” approach to dealing with COVID-19.
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Health Officials have robustly defended their policies, stressing that their goal was to slow the virus enough for health services to cope.
Mr Tegnell told ITV: “We’re definitely not gambling with lives.
“We’re trying to do the best we can with the knowledge we have.
“And so far if you look at the projections done by a number of modelers, the Swedish model has worked a lot better than people would have believed.
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“They said that the Swedish healthcare would collapse already a month ago.
“It did not. It keeps on working.”
The head of the Public Health Agency believes that his model is sustainable for a long time, whereas those countries who have imposed tough lockdowns will have to end them sooner rather than later.
And when they do, the coronavirus caseloads will spiral back out of control.
Sweden’s approach contrasts with that of its Scandinavian neighbours, where lockdowns were imposed by governments.
Death rates ran far higher than in Denmark, Norway and Finland, even if lower than in countries such as Britain, Italy and France.
The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care in Sweden has also fallen by a third from the peak in late April and health authorities say the outbreak is slowing.
But in a worrying sign, Sweden recorded the highest number of Covid-19 deaths per capita in Europe over the last seven days.
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