Sweden’s state epidemiologist has lashed out against the World Health Organization, accusing it of misinterpreting Covid-19 data and overstating the health risks his country faces.
Anders Tegnell, the architect of Sweden’s hands-off response to fighting the coronavirus pandemic, said the WHO made a “total mistake” by putting the Nordic nation on a list that shows where “accelerated transmission has led to very significant resurgence that, if left unchecked, will push health systems to the brink once again in Europe.”
The list, which includes 11 countries, fails to take into consideration the nuances in Sweden’s approach to testing, according to Tegnell.
“We have an increased number of cases since we started testing a lot more in Sweden last week,” he told Swedish public radio on Friday. “But we can look at all other parameters we measure, that is how many serious cases we have; they’re decreasing.”
The WHO has since clarified its assessment in an emailed comment to Swedish media that was also sent to Bloomberg News. The organization said the number of new cases in Sweden “remains relatively high,” but linked the development to increased testing since the beginning of June.
“However, it is important to note that the proportion of positive results among those tested remains stable, at about 12–13%,” the WHO said.
Tegnell said a key indicator to watch is the number of admissions to intensive care units, which he characterized as being at a very low level in Sweden. He also noted that the death rate is on the decline.
“So this is unfortunately a total misjudgment of the Swedish data,” Tegnell said of the WHO’s original list.
Sweden was the only OECD member on the WHO’s European list, which besides the Nordic country includes Armenia, the Republic of Moldova, North Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Kosovo.
Sweden has one of the world’s highest Covid-19 mortality rates, with more deaths per 100,000 than the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Still, at no point has Sweden’s Covid crisis overburdened its state-funded universal health-care system when it comes to handling the virus, and a field hospital erected in southern Stockholm to cope with surplus cases has gone unused.
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