Sweden continues to have one of the highest coronavirus death rates in Europe after avoiding lockdown – though it is gaining ground on the UK despite the harsh measures imposed in Britain.
Sweden registered 1.6 deaths per million people on Thursday which was higher than the 1.4 deaths registered in the UK.
But the country’s death rate has fallen by 2.51 deaths per million since June 9, when it was the highest in Europe at 4.12.
In the same time period the UK’s death rate fell by just 1.88 deaths per million, with the figure largely stalling since mid-June as the country attempts to exit a lockdown that has devastated the economy.
Sweden still has one of the highest death rates in Europe after shunning lockdown, but it is now dropping faster than the UK as the country eases the harsh measures it put in place
People in Sweden have kept going to bars throughout the pandemic under a ‘herd immunity’ strategy that state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell says will be better in the long-run
Only Macedonia, at 3.4 deaths per million, and Kosovo, at 2.1, now have higher death rates than the UK and Sweden, the European Center for Disease Control says.
By comparison Belgium, which for a time had the highest death rate anywhere in the world, registered just 0.27 deaths per million on Wednesday.
Italy, where the pandemic first took hold in Europe, had 0.31.
Sweden’s state epidemiologist Ander Tegnell has repeatedly argued against lockdowns, saying they ‘fly in the face’ of the science around epidemics and pointing to the UK’s high death rate as an example.
He has argued that the measures merely delay the inevitable and – over the long-term – all countries will end up in the same position.
Because of that, he argues that lockdowns are not worth the economic price-tag they carry.
However, he has been forced to admit that Sweden’s death toll is too high, and that harsher measures should have been taken to protect the vulnerable, particularly in care homes.
Britain shut down almost all of its economy as the pandemic took hold and has only began easing measures in recent weeks, which has seen its falling death rate stall
Hairdressers, cafes, restaurants and pubs have now been allowed to reopen in the UK in a move which some experts have warned carries a high risk of spreading the infection
Sweden has so-far registered 73,858 cases of the virus and 5,482 deaths, far higher than its Nordic neighbours which did bring in lockdowns.
Norway has just 8,950 cases of the virus and 251 deaths after going into lockdown early, while Finland has 7,273 cases and 329 deaths.
Denmark has 12,900 cases of the virus and 609 deaths.
The United States, which avoided full lockdowns of the kind seen in Europe, currently has a death rate similar to Sweden – at 1.76 per million on Wednesday.
South American countries which have found themselves at the epicentre of the pandemic currently have some of the highest death rates in the world.
Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro has recently tested positive for the virus, has a current death rate of 4.8 per million people.
Chile has one of the highest rates in the world at 5.58, narrowly followed by Peru with 5.52.
Tegnell has admitted that he got some aspects of his strategy wrong and would have used harsher measures earlier, but insists that full lockdown would not have been effective
Globally, coronavirus has now infected more than 12million people and killed almost 550,000 amid warnings that it is still accelerating.
A million new cases of the virus have been reported in the last five days, while the previous million cases took seven days to accumulate.
The world is now adding around 170,000 new cases of the virus each day, according to WHO data, while it was adding around 130,000 cases per day a month ago.
While deaths have also been increasing they have failed to keep pace with the number of cases, leading some to claim that the virus is getting weaker.
Others tout improved treatments and hospital capacity, while Brazil’s Bolsonaro and America’s President Trump insist the rise in cases is down to better testing – meaning that infections that previous went unreported are now being picked up.