Sweden’s lockdown-free response to the coronavirus is under threat as officials consider local restrictions to “ break the chain ” amid an escalation of cases in Stockholm.
State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, an engineer of herd immunity, expanded proposals for the capital after first mentioning the shift on Tuesday.
“We are thinking of fairly short restrictions,” Tegnell told the Daggins Nehter newspaper on Wednesday. “To break the spread of infection, it might take two to three weeks at most.” “We’re still working on developing the concept, so to speak, but something like that.”
Tegnell added: “Restrictions can be very local. It can be a single workplace or one city area: wherever you see a spread and think there are restrictions that might prevent it.”
Coronavirus cases in Sweden
Corona virus deaths in Sweden
Coronavirus deaths in Sweden per million people compared to the United Kingdom
Swedish chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell (pictured) said that the new measures for the capital cannot be ruled out
The change may prompt critics of the Swedish strategy to demand justification, but the country’s infection rate (28 per 100,000) is still well below the UK rate (69 per 100,000).
Yesterday, Tegnell indicated that success in tackling winter flu last year may have been a factor in the high death rate due to the Coronavirus. The elderly are most susceptible to both diseases.
What is herd immunity?
Herd immunity is a condition in which a population is protected from disease because so many of them are not affected by it – because they are already infected with it or have been vaccinated – so that it cannot spread. To cause an outbreak, the disease-causing bacteria or virus must have a constant supply of potential victims who are not immune to it.
Immunity is when your body knows exactly how to fight a certain type of infection because it has encountered it before, either by contracting the disease in the past or through a vaccine. When a virus or bacteria enters the body, the immune system produces substances called antibodies, which are designed to destroy a specific type of insect.
When these are created once, some of them remain in the body and the body also remembers how to form them again. The antibodies – along with the T cells – provide long-term protection, or immunity, against disease. If no one is immune to the disease – as was the case at the start of the Coronavirus outbreak – it can spread like wildfire.
But if half of people have, for example, immunity – from a previous infection or a vaccine – then half of the people the disease can spread to. As more people become immune, the insect finds it difficult to spread until the group of its victims is so small that it cannot spread at all.
The herd immunity threshold varies with different diseases, depending on the infection.
Sweden’s strategy of emphasizing personal responsibility rather than major lockdowns to slow the virus has drawn heavy criticism with the number of deaths soaring in the spring. Critics have warned of how thousands of patients could die.
The infections decreased dramatically in the summer and avoided the kind of spikes in new cases seen in Spain, France and Britain this month.
The country is currently registering fewer than 200 new cases per day, on average – a figure that’s down from around 250 last week.
For comparison, the country was recording about 1,000 infections per day during the height of its crisis in June.
It was also announcing more than 100 deaths per day, during the darker weeks of the crisis – indicating that tests were catching a fraction of the disease, given an estimate that the virus kills about 0.6 percent of infected patients, many of whom are infected. Unaware that they have the disease.
Sweden recorded only 31 deaths throughout the entire month of September, and daily totals have remained in single figures since July. It can take about 21 days for patients to die from the disease, which means that any real spike in cases shows up in deaths several weeks later.
These figures reinforce claims that Sweden may have achieved some form of herd immunity through its controversial policy.
“We have seen in Sweden that this tends to hit vulnerable areas socially, and you have to keep that in mind,” Tegnell said on Wednesday.
“That’s why I was a bit skeptical about limiting the movement of people, because you need to find restrictions that the group you work with and who work in ways that do more than just fight infection will accept.”
Stockholm, however, suffered a slight rise in cases. the local Reports suggest the city’s test-positive rate – the amount of swabs that came back positive – jumped from 1.3 percent to 2.2 percent. The national average is around 1.5 percent.
The test-positive rate is a sign that the outbreak is increasing, as long as the amount of tests performed remains the same.
The Public Health Agency said this week that the increase in new cases cannot be explained solely by an increase in testing.
The Scandinavian country was the only country in Europe that did not implement strict lockdown measures at the start of the epidemic. Pictured: Crowds walking through Stockholm this week
At the height of the crisis, Stockholm County was registering around 240 cases per day. That had dropped below 100 by early July, but is now starting to rise to an average of around 44 – up from 30 two weeks ago.
Data from Swedish health chiefs shows that Skåne County – on the border of Denmark and the region that has half the population of Stockholm – records the most cases every day.
“The average circulation has increased somewhat. It has not affected healthcare – so far. The number of new ICU cases is very low and the number of deaths is very low,” Tegnell said at a news conference on Tuesday.
He added: ‘We have a discussion with Stockholm about whether we need to take measures to limit the spread of infection. What exactly will that be, we’ll come back to it in the next few days.