Architect of Sweden’s hands-off pandemic strategy warns of third wave

Anders Tegnell asks citizens to abide by new restrictions to ease burden on intensive care units

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - MARCH 01: People travel on the commuter train, which often sees large crowds due to frequent delays, on March 1, 2021 in Stockholm, Sweden. A surge of Covid-19 infections has prompted Sweden to gradually abandon its unique approach of voluntary measures. New restrictions as of March 1st aim to curb the rise in coronavirus cases, as the country of 10 million inhabitants reports some 657, 000 infection cases. (Photo by Jonas Gratzer/Getty Images)
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Sweden is heading for a third wave of coronavirus, the controversial scientist behind the country’s pandemic strategy said.

Officials limited the number of people allowed in shopping centres, adding to a string of new restrictions, such as reducing opening hours for bars, cafes and restaurants, and stricter mask-wearing rules.

The country of 10 million reported 6,179 new cases and 82 deaths on Wednesday.

Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, said people needed to follow the new rules to prevent hospitals being overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients.

"It certainly looks like we're heading into a third wave," he said. “It's starting to have an impact on intensive care.”

Sweden’s health agency recommended that crowds at shopping centres be limited to 500 people.

Prof Tegnell, who gained notoriety for his hands-off approach to the pandemic, encouraged people to work from home if possible.

He confirmed that Sweden was considering changing its recommendation of not giving the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine to the elderly, mirroring a U-turn made in France on Tuesday. Germany is looking to do the same.

"The AstraZeneca vaccine has got an undeserved bad reputation," he said.

Sweden, which did not order a lockdown and opted for a herd-immunity approach, has a Covid-19 death toll of more than 13,000.

The death rate per capita is many times higher than that of its Nordic neighbours, but lower than in several European countries that opted for lockdowns.

Finland on Tuesday declared a state of emergency ahead of a three-week lockdown beginning on March 8.

Several Finnish regions experienced a recent surge in case numbers, with outbreaks at ski resorts and among workers at shipping yards and construction sites.