The total death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 5,000 on Wednesday in Sweden, where the national consensus is weakening day by day around its less stringent strategy against the new coronavirus.
• Read also: All the developments of the pandemic
With 499.1 deaths per million people, this Scandinavian country, used to being cited as an example in many areas, points to an unenviable fifth place in the world for this mortality rate. Behind four other European states (Belgium, United Kingdom, Spain and Italy) and ahead of France, according to official data compiled by the AFP.
“I think we should have started mass testing much earlier, we should have tested more people,” said Lars Falk, doctor and department head at the prestigious Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm. “As soon as someone tests positive, they don’t go out as much and meet as many people as they don’t know,” he told AFP.
The number of intensive care patients is down sharply in its unit as elsewhere, Sweden has passed the peak, the statistics improving gradually. But pressure is mounting on the government, accused in particular of having gone too far behind its administration, in this case the health authority headed by its chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell.
Social Democratic Prime Minister Stefan Löfven reiterated over the weekend that his country’s policy “was not a failure”.
The same, with premonitory fatalism, had however warned at the beginning of April: “We will have to count the dead by the thousands, we might as well prepare for it”.
If Sweden has no worse record than the other European countries most affected, it is very bad compared to that of its immediate neighbors and northern allies, where the epidemic arrived at about the same date. Relative to the population, five times less deaths in Denmark and (at comparable density) eight times less in Finland and eleven times less in Norway.
The huge number of people who perished in retirement homes “has nothing to do with strategy. It is linked to the flaws in the society that we are correcting, “pleaded Löfven, citing poor hygiene in retirement homes.
” A step back “
Political party officials, who like a large part of the population have largely supported the decision not to confine the 10.3 million Swedes, are also starting to criticize. They particularly deplore the delay in setting up a massive test campaign, which only really started this week and often reveals more than 1,000 additional cases daily in recent days.
“A leader must take a step forward, but Löfven has taken a step back,” said Ebba Thor, leader of the Christian Democrats, in the right-wing opposition.
Liberal parliamentary leader Johan Pehrson said Sweden’s lighter approach “may have contributed to the very high toll.”
The conservative boss has called for the immediate establishment of a commission of inquiry into the government’s management of the crisis.
The Swedes, banned from spending their holidays in several European Union states including their northern neighbors, will finally have the right to spend their holidays in ten countries, Foreign Minister Ann Linde announced on Wednesday.
And Sweden can hope to enter the final phase of the epidemic, doctors say.
In intensive care, “the numbers have really gone down. There is a real difference from two months ago, “said Karin Hildebrand, a doctor at Södersjukhuset Hospital in Stockholm, who expects a further decline.
As for Anders Tegnell, advocate of a “marathon strategy”, he reiterated that the confinements did not work and that once the restrictions were lifted, the virus would sooner or later start to circulate again.
Without a vaccine, “you can’t completely eliminate the virus,” he said on Tuesday.
A study (have reliability is controversial) shows that 14% of the approximately 50,000 inhabitants of Stockholm who have tested have antibodies acting against COVID-19. The capital is by far the most affected region in the country.