There is little evidence that herd immunity is helping Sweden fight the new coronavirus, according to the country’s top epidemiologist.
“The issue of herd immunity is complicated,” Anders Tegnell agreed at a press conference in Stockholm on Tuesday.
“We do not see signs of an immunity in the population that is slowing down the infection at this time,” he remarked.
Swedes have been more exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus than their Nordic neighbors, and one in three Stockholm residents who have been tested has antibodies , according to figures released this week. That happens after the country chooses not to implement containment measures, preferring instead to rely on voluntary measures.
Tegnell has already said that herd immunity is difficult to quantify and even questioned the official figures. Swedish authorities have made it clear that immunity is not a political goal, but the country’s exposure to the virus makes it an obvious test case to test the theory.
In a recent study by the Organization, Sweden consistently ranked among the most affected countries in Europe , in terms of rates of infection and relative mortality from COVID-19. It was also the slowest to contain the spread.
Sweden was recently forced to readjust its strategy against the virus after the daily case rate surpassed 7,000. In what Prime Minister Stefan Lofven this month called an “unprecedented” move, the government ruled that Swedes will no longer be able to meet in public in groups larger than eight . The sale of alcohol is now also prohibited after 10pm.
In a rare televised speech, Lofven pleaded with his compatriots to do more on Sunday.
” The health and lives of people are still in danger , and that danger is increasing,” he said.
The new restrictions come amid warnings that Sweden’s intensive care beds are filling up fast. Meanwhile, authorities in the country warn against placing too much responsibility on a possible future vaccine.
“We are still seeing an increase in patients needing intensive care and care,” said Thomas Linden, department head of the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare, in Tuesday’s briefing.
“The fact that a vaccine is only months away should not be taken as a sign to be careless with measures .”
“In a third wave, the health care system will be even more strained than it has been until now,” he said.