Great Britain

Coronavirus: ‘Futile and immoral’ to seek herd immunity, says Sweden’s chief epidemiologist

It is “futile and immoral” to seek herd immunity as a protection from a pandemic, and the transmission of an infectious disease like Covid-19 cannot be fully halted without a vaccine, Sweden's chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has said.

During the first wave of Covid-19 outbreaks in Europe earlier this year, Sweden decided against a national lockdown and its schools, restaurants, and shops remained open. However, people aged over 70 were cautioned to limit their social contacts.

Die Zeit reported that Dr Tegnell, who was the key person behind that approach, said Sweden is now at a critical juncture as the number of daily cases has increased by 70 per cent in a week.  

Despite a rise in cases, Dr Tegnell said the curve was rising less steeply than in other countries and has not led to more people needing hospital admissions.  

According to the World Health Organisation, Sweden has so far recorded more than 115,785 cases of coronavirus including 5,918 deaths. Globally, over 44 million Covid-19 cases including 1.1 million deaths have been recorded.  

Other major European countries like France, Germany and the UK have also noted a record spike in coronavirus cases recently. France has announced a nationwide lockdown until 1 December while Germany too has declared a lighter version of its initial strict lockdown.  

Last week, Sweden had its first regional lockdown when around 170,000 citizens of Uppsala, a town near Stockholm, were asked to work from home. They were also asked to avoid social gatherings, physical contact and public transport. Though Dr Tegnell claimed it is not a lockdown as it is not shutting down of the whole society.  

It was also reported that an analysis by Swedish authorities found that about 70 per cent of Covid-19 deaths in June were related to care homes for older people. 

Despite this finding, on 1 October the ban on visiting Sweden’s 1,700 care homes was lifted.  

Earlier, the chief epidemiologist had stated that there was a mixed picture on immunity and emphasised that the spread of coronavirus in society is very uneven.

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