Sweden: No signs that herd immunity is slowing down the virus

Sweden‘s chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has said that the “issue of herd immunity is difficult” and they see “no signs of immunity” in the population battling coronavirus.

From the start of the pandemic, Sweden broke ranks with most other countries and decided against a national lockdown to contain the virus. Though “herd immunity” was never explicitly referred to as a goal by officials, the country allowed schools, restaurants and shops to remain open and only urged people over 70 to limit their social contacts.

It has seen the nation’s progress watched closely, particularly by those who believe the virus can be stopped naturally once it has spread sufficiently for large swathes of a population to develop antibodies. 

Sweden has so far seen no evidence of this happening, Dr Tegnell told a briefing in Stockholm on Tuesday. “We see no signs of immunity in the population that are slowing down the infection right now,” he said.

Thomas Linden of Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare said they are still seeing “an increase in patients who need care and intensive care” and cautioned that “one must not take the fact that there is a vaccine a few months away” as a reason to be “careless with measures.”

“In a third wave, the healthcare system will be even more strained than it has been so far,” Mr Linden said.

In the past two months, Europe including Sweden has seen a serious resurgence of Covid-19 cases. Countries like the UK, France and Germany opted for returns to full or partial lockdown to control the spread of the pandemic.

According to the World Health Organisation, Sweden has recorded 208,295 cases till now including 6,406 deaths. More than 50,000 cases, about 25 per cent of its total so far, have come in November alone.

According to recently released official figures, every third Stockholmer tested has antibodies.  

Last month, Dr Tegnell, who was one of the key architects of Sweden’s anti-lockdown approach, had said it is “futile and immoral” to seek herd immunity.

In October, the Nordic country had its first regional lockdown during the pandemic when around 170,000 citizens of Uppsala, a town near Stockholm, were asked to work from home.  

Last week, Sweden banned public events or more than eight people and its Prime Minister Stefan Lofven had cautioned that things are “going to get worse” and asked people to “take responsibility to stop the spread of infection.”

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