Only 1.3% of Swedes tested for coronavirus have the disease down from 19% at the height of pandemic

Swedish experts claim vindication on COVID: Positive coronavirus test rate hits its lowest level yet with only 1.3% of Swedes who are swabbed found to have virus – despite an increase in testing

  • Tiny proportion came up positive after more than 120,000 tests over last week
  • Nation has recorded 5,838 deaths but infection numbers falling since summer
  • Sweden now also has fewer deaths per million people than the United Kingdom 

Sweden‘s ‘herd immunity’ strategy of not locking down the country has been justified, experts say, after it emerged only 1.3 per cent of people tested for coronavirus actually have the disease.

The tiny proportion, from more than 120,000 tests carried out over the past week, represents a huge drop from the peak of the pandemic when it stood at 19 per cent.

The nation has recorded 5,838 deaths due to Covid-19 – the fifth-highest rate per capita in Europe – but new infection numbers have been plummeting since June.

On Wednesday, Sweden logged fewer deaths per million people – 0.06 – than in the UK, where the figure was 0.17 ahead of Boris Johnson‘s reversal of lockdown easing.

A graph shows how the number of new coronavirus deaths per million people has changed in Sweden and the UK

Epidemiologist Johan Carlson, who is also director of the Swedish public health agency, told the Times: ‘Our strategy was consistent and sustainable.

‘We probably have a lower risk of [the virus] spreading than other countries.’

Officials in Stockholm argued at the start of the pandemic that the virus would present a long-term challenge and that it would be more beneficial for people to continue going about their daily business and develop immunity to it.

The public were urged to work from home where possible but schools, bars and restaurants largely remained open throughout, and while people are urged to keep 1.5m away from each other, Sweden has not demanded masks be worn in shops or on transport. 

Initially, scientists described the approach as reckless, with some predicting as many as 180,000 people from a population of 10.2 million could die as a result.

While only Belgium, the UK, Spain and Italy have recorded more deaths than Sweden, its total of 5,838 shows how overblown such estimates were, particularly given the downward trajectory since the summer. 

Indeed, this week, only seven people have died as a result of coronavirus. 

A graph shows how the number of cases per million people compares in Norway, Denmark and Sweden

A graph shows how the number of cases per million people compares in Norway, Denmark and Sweden

Its progress can be highlighted further by comparing it to Norway, one of the first on the continent to introduce a lockdown, in that it now has fewer cases per capita than its neighbour.

Likewise, Denmark, which also imposed tight restrictions, has seen its infection rate rise higher than that witnessed in Sweden, despite initially seeming to have curbed the worst of the virus.

The other Scandinavian countries have largely reopened borders with Sweden but rising cases in Norway mean some quarantine measures have been restored. 

As Boris Johnson eyes his own ‘moonshot’ mass testing regime in the UK, the Swedish government has invested many more resources in testing, having previously restricted it to those more at risk and those working on the front line.

As a result, it now carries out triple the amount of daily tests it did three months ago, offering them to anyone with apparent symptoms, while a system to track down and test the contacts of each infected person also appears to be working.      


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