SWEDEN is looking to ease restrictions for older people despite the country seeing a rise in coronavirus cases.
Anders Tegnell, the man behind the nation’s shunning of strict lockdowns, has said he wants to allow over-70s to “live a bit more of a normal life”.
Older people had been advised to avoid social contact and do their shopping online due to their vulnerability to the coronavirus.
Tegnell, Sweden’s state epidemiologist, said authorities would “send the same message to them that we send to the population in general” as he encouraged them to be careful.
He however continued to steer clear of introducing tough new restrictions as draconian rules begin to reappear across Europe.
The advice comes despite figures showing 70 per cent of Sweden’s coronavirus deaths have occurred in care homes.
Tegnell however rejected claims that the country had chosen to “sacrifice the elderly” to stay open.
Sweden has been seen as a model for lockdown-sceptics as it has so far come through the pandemic without ever shutting down.
However, it was suggested by other Swedish officials that “local lockdowns” could be rolled out as the Nordic nation recorded its highest daily case count since June with 970.
Sweden so far has recorded 103,200 cases and 5,918 deaths from its population of around 10million.
The nation’s case count per one million people is comparable to Britain’s, with 10,293 for Sweden and 10,901 for the UK, despite dodging lockdown.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Tegnell said Sweden’s “priority” was to “lessen” the rules for older people.
He admitted “that’s our main problem really now” after over-70s were advised to “limit close contact with others” and “maintain contact with your nearest and dearest via telephone or computer”.
Sweden has opted to offer guidelines to people without imposing strict rules and fines, and even gave advice to the UK despite Boris Johnson deciding to plunge millions back into lockdown.
He said: “Basically we mean that we will send a message to elderly people, you don’t need to completely isolate any more.
“We send the same message to them that we send to the population in general: avoid big gatherings, keep your distance.”
Sweden’s death rate is higher than the rest of Scandinavia, but the daily deaths are currently low with on average just three fatalities.
Tegnell said: “Unfortunately our death rates, everybody would wish that they didn’t happen and I would also like to say that this is nothing we really anticipated.
“This is not any kind of risk we took willingly or knowingly. I know critics have said that we sort of sacrificed the elderly in Sweden but that is absolutely not true.”
Meanwhile, Tom Britton, a maths professor at Stockholm University, argued that tighter restrictions could have saved 4,000 lives or more in Sweden, reports The Local.
He said: “I think that if we had done a more serious lockdown, we would have saved more lives, but we would still probably have had maybe 1,000 or even 2,000 dead people.”
And then Dr Johan Nojd, who leads the infectious diseases department in Uppsala, told The Telegraph, he was calling for measures akin to “local lockdowns”.
He added that if contact tracing shows further links between activities and infections they will not hesitate to impose even tougher measures.
Covid-19 hotspots including capital city Stockholm, Uppsala, Orebro and Jamtland could be advised to avoid physical contact with anyone outside their households.
Authorities have however said any potential “lockdown” will be voluntary and failure to comply will not result in fines.
Bitte Brastad, chief legal officer at Sweden’s public health agency, said the new measures were “something in between regulations and recommendations”.
Dr Joacim Rocklov, professor of epidemiology at Umea University, told the Telegraph the “lockdowns” showed Sweden was having to switch gears.
He said: “What’s happened in the last couple of weeks is a movement towards a similar model to what has been used in Norway and many other countries.
“It’s very obvious that it’s a new strategy, but still the newspapers report on ‘the Swedish strategy’ as if it were fixed in March.”
Dr Rocklov said that he believed that the resurgence in infections in Stockholm has challenged health authorities belief that herd immunity would work.
Sweden – which has a population only slighter bigger than London – has seen coronavirus cases creeping up since the middle of September.
A two week total of 85 cases per 100,000 people has been reported by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
The organisation has marked Sweden with an “orange” alert as they called for coordinated action by European nations to stop a surge in cases.
Sweden had boasted its strategy had been “vindicated” at the start of September as it saw consistently low cases throughout the summer.
The government had aimed to “solve the crisis with as few negative consequences as possible for people’s lives and health”.
Rather than carry out a strict lockdown, it issued numerous guidelines to help people through the coronavirus pandemic such as staying home if they were ill, washing hands and social distancing.
Meanwhile no businesses were forced to shut down, as Sweden wanted to limit the impact on its economy.