Sweden declares pandemic over despite warnings from scientists
Sweden declares pandemic over despite warnings from scientists

Sweden declares pandemic over despite warnings from scientists

STOCKHOLM, February 9 (Reuters) – Sweden scrapped almost all of its few pandemic restrictions on Wednesday, stopping most testing for COVID-19, although pressure on health systems remained high and some scientists called for more patience in the fight against the disease.

The Swedish government, which has opted for lockdowns throughout the pandemic in favor of a voluntary approach, announced last week that it would lift the remaining restrictions – effectively declaring the pandemic over – as vaccines and the less severe Omicron variant have mitigated serious cases. and deaths.

– As we know this pandemic, I would say that it is over, says Minister of Health Lena Hallengren to Dagens Nyheter. “It’s not over, but as we know it in terms of rapid changes and constraints, it is,” she said, adding that COVID will no longer be classified as a danger to society.

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From Wednesday onwards, bars and restaurants will again be allowed to stay open after 11 pm, and without restrictions on the number of guests. Participation limits for larger indoor venues were also lifted, as was the use of vaccine passports.

‘WE SHOULD HAVE MORE PATIENCE’

However, Swedish hospitals still felt the strain, with around 2,200 people with COVID requiring hospital treatment, roughly the same as during the third wave in the spring of 2021. When free testing was reduced earlier in the month and actually stopped from Wednesday, no one knew the exact number of cases.

“We should have a little more patience, wait at least a few more weeks. And we are rich enough to keep testing,” Fredrik Elgh, professor of virology at Umeå University and one of the most tenacious critics of Sweden’s no lockdown policy, told Reuters.

“The disease is still a huge burden on society,” he said.

The Swedish National Board of Health said this week that large-scale testing was too expensive in relation to the benefits. Sweden spent about 500 million Swedish kroner ($ 55 million) a week on testing in the first five weeks of this year and about 24 billion kroner since the start of the pandemic.

On Wednesday, Sweden registered 114 new deaths in which the deceased was infected with the virus. A total of 16,182 people have died either from the virus or while infected. The number of deaths per per capita is much higher than among Nordic neighbors, but lower than in most European countries. ($ 1 = 9.0914 Swedish kronor)

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Report by Johan Ahlander; Edited by Alex Richardson

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