Sweden’s top epidemiologist said on Wednesday there was room for improvement in the country’s controversial softer approach to curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
But Anders Tegnell, the public face of Sweden’s virus response, defended the decision not to impose the strict lockdowns seen in other countries.
“If we were to encounter the same disease with everything we know about it today, I think we would end up doing something in between what Sweden and the rest of the world has done,” Tegnell told Swedish Radio.
Sweden has so far reported 38,589 confirmed cases and 4,468 deaths, a toll far greater than neighboring countries and described by Tegnell as “absolutely” too high.
He stressed however that he was still unsure which added measures would have made a difference.
“It would be good to know more precisely what you should shut down to better prevent a spread of the infection,” he said.
Schools have remained open to under-16s. Cafes, bars and restaurants and most businesses have also stayed open.
People have been urged to work from home, limit contacts, practice social distancing and wash hands frequently. The public is expected to follow the recommendations, but they are not legally binding.
However, the country has imposed bans on visits to nursing homes and on gatherings of more than 50 people.
Sweden’s leaders have maintained that the measures are designed for the long haul, reiterating often that the fight against the virus is a “marathon, not a sprint.”
The Swedish approach has been criticized at home and abroad, particularly as the number of deaths has far exceeded those in neighboring Nordic countries, which have all imposed more restrictive containment measures.