- Sweden underestimated the second wave of the coronavirus, prime minister Stefan Lofven admits.
- The country had predicted that its no-lockdown policy would prevent a second wave of the virus.
- However, hospitals in Swedish cities are now running out of intensive care beds
- “I think that most people in the profession didn’t see such a wave in front of them; they talked about different clusters,” Lofven said.
- The Swedish government is drafting emergency legislation to allow lockdowns and business closures.
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Sweden’s prime minister has admitted that the country misjudged its response to the second coronavirus surge, as intensive care units in the capital Stockholm become overwhelmed with patients.
Sweden recorded 8,088 deaths from all causes last month, the country’s statistics agency announced on Monday. This is the country’s second-highest monthly mortality rate on record, behind the Spanish Flu in 1918.
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told the Aftonbladet newspaper that. “I think that most people in the profession didn’t see such a wave in front of them; they talked about different clusters.”
“It was not like we were not prepared for something to happen again, but no-one could predict that it would be with this strength,” he said.
“It is proof that it is a virus that we did not know about before, and that behaves in a way many would not have thought.”
Lofven admitted that the government had made mistakes.
“Some conclusions about where we could have been better have already been drawn,” he said.
“Take, for example, elderly care. There we need to do more, and there we increase in the next budget.”
The prime minister’s admission came as an independent report into Sweden’s pandemic response by scientists and crisis management experts in the country concluded that his government has failed to sufficiently protect the elderly.
The Swedish government and its predecessors were ultimately to blame for the failure to protect Sweden’s elderly, the commission said, with the “ultimate responsibility for these shortcomings rests with the government in power – and with the previous governments,” the Guardian reported.
Lofven’s government is gradually shifting away from its resistance to lockdown restrictions and has already imposed a ban on the sale of alcohol after 10 pm and prohibited public gatherings of more than 8 people.
High schools have also been closed for the rest of the term and the government is now drafting emergency legislation that could allow the imposition of lockdowns and business closures, the New York Times reports.
“We need a few weeks of lockdown to get the numbers down,” Tove Fall, Professor in molecular epidemiology at Sweden’s Uppsala University told the New York Times.
“Other countries are taking much higher precautions at lower transmission levels.”
The shift towards a more restrictive approach comes after the country’s predictions that it would avoid a second wave of the virus were proven wrong.
Anders Tegnell, the chief epidemiologist behind Sweden’s no-lockdown approach, said earlier this year that opting against a strict lockdown would help Sweden avoid a second wave of the virus due to widespread population immunity.
However, Sweden has since been hit by a much larger resurgence of the virus than its neighbours.
Sweden recorded 7,667 deaths as a result of the coronavirus on Wednesday morning, far more than any of its neighbours.
Hospitals in Sweden’s cities are now struggling to cope with a sharp rise in the number of new cases, with officials in its capital city warning that intensive care units are already beyond capacity.
“We are far beyond 100% of capacity in intensive care. We are approaching almost double the number of available spaces,” Bjorn Eriksson, a regional health director in Stockholm said on Tuesday, the New York Times reported.
As a result, Sweden’s neighbours, which have all imposed much stricter restrictions on their populations, this week offered emergency medical assistance to the country to help it cope with the surge in hospitalizations.