by WorldTribune Staff, April 23, 2020
Sweden’s top epidemiologist said “herd immunity” to coronavirus could be reached in Stockholm within weeks.
Sweden, unlike its Scandinavian neighbors, did not impose a lockdown amid the COVID-19 outbreak, instead employing a strategy aimed at building a broad-base of immunity while protecting at-risk groups.
“In major parts of Sweden, around Stockholm, we have reached a plateau (in new cases) and we’re already seeing the effect of herd immunity and in a few weeks’ time we’ll see even more of the effects of that. And in the rest of the country, the situation is stable,” Dr. Anders Tegnell, chief epidemiologist at Sweden’s Public Health Agency, told CNBC on April 21.
Herd immunity is reached when around 60 percent of citizens are deemed immune.
Tegnell told CNBC that sampling and modeling data indicated that 20 percent of Stockholm’s population is already immune to the virus, and that “in a few weeks’ time we might reach herd immunity and we believe that is why we’re seeing a slow decline in cases, in spite of sampling (testing for the coronavirus) more and more.”
As of April 21, Sweden at just over 15,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, most in Stockholm and its surrounding areas.
Sweden is testing around 20,000 people a week and hopes to increase that to 100,000 in a few weeks’ time, Tegnell said.
The majority of deaths from coronavirus in Sweden have been in the nation’s elderly care homes.
“The death toll is very closely related to elderly care homes. More than half of the people that have died have lived in elderly care homes.” Tegnell said, adding that he and the Public Health Agency are “still very concerned about the elderly. It’s the group we said we needed to protect.”
Tegnell said he was “fairly confident” in Sweden’s coronavirus strategy, but it is still too early for the government to lift restrictions imposed to delay the spread of the virus.
“A big part of the country has not been affected at all yet,” Tegnell said. ″(But) if you look at the exit strategies that now many countries have opted for, they look very much like Sweden’s (strategy and restrictions).”
Sweden’s government has advocated working from home and avoiding nonessential travel and social contact with the elderly. Restaurants, bars, cafes and nightclubs have been offering seated table service only, and gatherings of more than 50 people have been banned. Schools for under 16-year-olds have remained open and life has generally carried on as before the outbreak.