Sweden's prime minister admits the country got its coronavirus strategy wrong

GettySwedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven.
  • Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said in a new interview that Sweden underestimated the coronavirus.
  • The country had predicted that its no-lockdown policy would prevent a so-called second wave of the virus.
  • Hospitals in Swedish cities, however, are now running out of intensive-care beds.
  • “I think that most people in the profession didn’t see such a wave in front of them – they talked about different clusters,” Lofven told the newspaper Aftonbladet.
  • The Swedish government is drafting emergency legislation to allow lockdowns and business closings.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Sweden’s prime minister has admitted that the country misjudged its response to the second coronavirus surge, as intensive-care units in the capital Stockholm become overwhelmed with patients.

Sweden recorded 8,088 deaths from all causes last month, the country’s statistics agency announced on Monday. That was the country’s second-highest number of monthly deaths on record, surpassed only by the country’s worst month of the 1918 influenza pandemic.

“I think that most people in the profession didn’t see such a wave in front of them — they talked about different clusters,” Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told the newspaper Aftonbladet.

“It was not like we were not prepared for something to happen again, but no one could predict that it would be with this strength,” he said.

“It is proof that it is a virus that we did not know about before and that behaves in a way many would not have thought.”

Lofven acknowledged the government had made mistakes.

“Some conclusions about where we could have been better have already been drawn,” he said. “Take, for example, elderly care. There we need to do more, and there we increase in the next budget.”

The prime minister’s interview came as an independent report into Sweden’s pandemic response by scientists and crisis-management experts in the country concluded that his government had failed to sufficiently protect the country’s older population.

The commission said the Swedish government and its predecessors were ultimately to blame for the failure to protect older people,The Guardian reported.

Lofven’s government is gradually shifting away from its resistance to lockdown restrictions and has already imposed a ban on the sale of alcohol after 10 p.m. and has prohibited public gatherings of more than eight people.

High schools have also been closed for the rest of the term, and the government is drafting emergency legislation that could allow the imposition of lockdowns and business closings, The New York Times reports.

“We need a few weeks of lockdown to get the numbers down,” Tove Fall, a professor in molecular epidemiology at Sweden’s Uppsala University, told The Times.

“Other countries are taking much higher precautions at lower transmission levels.”

The shift toward a more restrictive approach comes after the country’s predictions that it would avoid a so-called second wave of the virus were proved wrong.

Anders Tegnell, the chief epidemiologist behind Sweden’s no-lockdown approach, said earlier this year that opting against a strict lockdown would help Sweden build up its population’s immunity and lessen the chances of a fall or winter surge in cases.

Sweden, however, has since been hit by a much larger resurgence of the virus than its neighbours.

Sweden had recorded 7,667 deaths as a result of the coronavirus as of Wednesday morning, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, far more than any of its neighbours.

Hospitals in Sweden’s cities are now struggling to cope with a sharp rise in the number of new cases, with officials in its capital, Stockholm, warning that intensive-care units were already beyond capacity.

“We are far beyond 100% of capacity in intensive care. We are approaching almost double the number of available spaces,” Bjorn Eriksson, a regional health director in Stockholm, said on Tuesday, The Times reported.

As a result, Sweden’s neighbours, which have all imposed much stricter restrictions on their populations, this week offered emergency medical assistance to the country to help it cope with the surge in hospitalizations.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.