Sweden now has more coronavirus patients in hospital than at any stage of the pandemic as anti-lockdown expert Anders Tegnell admits: ‘We are at the limit’Sweden faced controversy by never imposing type of lockdown seen in EuropeLatest data shows country registered 17,395 new coronavirus cases since FridayFigures show December 17 was the deadliest day since the start of the pandemic with 116 Covid deaths, surpassing a previous peak of 115 daily deaths set in April

Sweden has registered 17,395 new coronavirus cases since Friday, taking the total above 500,000 cases since the start of the pandemic.

The statistics from the Healthy Agency, means that the country now has more coronavirus patients in hospital than at any stage of the pandemic as hospitals struggle to cope with a rampant second wave of the virus.

Sweden has made headlines around the world by never imposing the type of lockdown seen elsewhere in Europe but it has started tightening measures in the face of a stronger than expected second wave over recent months.

The figures show that December 17 was the deadliest day since the start of the pandemic with 116 deaths, surpassing a previous peak of 115 daily deaths set in April.

While Sweden still has around 20 per cent spare capacity at intensive care units, there are worries the spread will accelerate again as people return to work and schools after the holidays.

“It’s quite obvious that the healthcare system is as strained now (as during the spring),” Chief Epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, the architect of an unorthodox pandemic strategy that has eschewed lockdowns, told a news conference.

“We are near the limit for what the healthcare system can handle.”

On Friday, Sweden’s parliament passed a pandemic law giving the government new powers to curb the spread of Covid in a country that has controversially relied on mostly non-coercive measures up to now.

The new law, which came into force on Sunday, enables the government to close businesses, shopping malls or public transport.

Under the new law, the government has authority to close public transport. Pictured: Passengers wearing face masks exit a commuter train at Malmo central station in Malmo

The Government can also impose limits on the number of people allowed in specific public places, rather than general restrictions on public gatherings.

In most cases, breaches of the new restrictions will lead to a fine, which previously has not been possible.

Unlike many other countries, Sweden does not have legislation that allows the government to shut down society in peacetime.

A ban on public gatherings of more than eight people took effect in November and a recommendation on the use of face masks on public transport came into effect on Thursday.

The special pandemic law, which is in force until September, was first planned to go into effect in March but this was moved forward to January.

The country of 10 million inhabitants registered 234 new deaths since Friday, taking the total to 9,667.

The deaths registered have occurred over several days and weeks with many from the Christmas period being registered with a significant delay.

The second wave has also affected how Swedes perceive authorities’ handling of the crisis.

In December 47 per cent said they had relatively high or high confidence in the government’s and agencies’ actions, down from 52 per cent in the previous month.

Sweden’s death rate per capita is several times higher than that of its Nordic neighbours but lower than several European countries that opted for lockdowns.

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