Sweden’s surge in Covid cases deals a blow to herd immunity theory

Country’s spiralling infection rate has overtaken the rest of Europe

epa08795230 State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell of the Public Health Agency of Sweden speaks during a news conference updating on the coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19) situation, in Stockholm, Sweden, 03 November 2020.  EPA/Jonas Ekstromer *** SWEDEN OUT *** SWEDEN OUT
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Hospitalisations from Covid-19 in Sweden are rising faster than in any other country in Europe, despite state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell predicting his nation would be spared the full impact of a second wave due to his controversial immunity strategy.

The number of coronavirus cases is doubling every eight days, higher than in Italy where it is reported to be doubling every ten days.

Sweden reported 4,658 new confirmed cases on Thursday, slightly fewer than its daily record set last week. There have been 6,122 deaths to Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.

Speaking on Thursday at the country’s Public Health Agency, Mr Tegnell refused to concede that Sweden has lost immunity.

“There is no reason to believe that we have lost it,” he said.

“There are extremely few cases in the world where it has been identified that someone has been infected twice... but that we have an immunity at the bottom is quite clear. It is probably smaller than we thought in the spring.”

Sweden’s Prime Minister, Stefan Lofven, said at a press conference on Wednesday that the spread of the virus was heading in the wrong direction.

“The infection is spreading fast, and in the past week the number of people being treated for Covid-19 in intensive care has more than doubled.

“So far, the healthcare sector is managing the pressure, but staff have been overworked since spring and now they risk standing on the front line for a long time to come,” he said.

Mr Lofven announced alcohol would only be sold until 10pm amid the suspicion that Swedes were becoming too relaxed in their approach to coronavirus guidelines.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Sweden has avoided the strict lockdowns seen across swathes of Europe. Restaurants, gyms and shops have remained open and the wearing of face masks has not been mandatory outside hospitals.

One of the fiercest critics of Sweden's strategy, Dr Lena Einhorn, told the Financial Times this week: "So far, Sweden's strategy has proven to be a dramatic failure.

“Four days ago, we had eight times higher cases per capita than Finland and three-and-a-half times more than Norway. They were supposed to have it worse off than us in the autumn because we were going to have immunity,” she said.