Sweden told to prepare for second wave of coronavirus

Sweden told to prepare for second wave of coronavirus
Swedish Health Minister Lena Hallengren at a press conference on Monday. Photo: Ali Lorestani/TT
Deaths linked to the coronavirus have fallen in Sweden since the peak of the outbreak, but the government has told authorities to start preparing for a possible second wave in autumn.

“The danger is not over,” Health Minister Lena Hallengren told a press conference, as she announced plans for how Sweden should act quickly in case there is a renewed rise in serious infections later this year.

The government on Monday ordered four government authorities – the Public Health Agency, the National Board of Health and Welfare, the Medical Products Agency and the Civil Contingencies Agency – as well as the country's county administrative boards to start drawing up plans for how to tackle such a second wave.

It tasked the Public Health Agency with investigating whether or not it is possible to issue public guidelines and regulations that are adapted for regional areas, and not just nationwide recommendations as today.

Nobody yet knows what will happen come autumn, but if there is a second wave it is likely to break out in clusters – such as the outbreak in the Gällivare mining industry in northern Sweden – said Hallengren.

“That's why it is important to have regional plans, not just national,” she said.

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The Swedish government also instructed the Public Health Agency on Monday to work out various scenarios for how the virus could continue to spread in Sweden this year, including the number of infections and deaths.

More than 5,400 people have died after testing positive for the coronavirus, since Sweden confirmed its first case on January 31st. Almost six months later, the number of new deaths is slowly falling, as is the number of corona patients in intensive care. But the situation remains precarious and restrictions are still in place.

A second wave may partly depend on the extent to which people continue following the measures that have led to a fall in infections, such as limiting social contacts and following good hand hygiene.

Epidemiologist Björn Olsen, who has been critical of the Public Health Agency's strategy, told the Dagens Industri newspaper last month he thought a second wave was unlikely, but said it is likely the virus will be around for many years, with a risk of new clusters of cases if people fail to act responsibly. 

The government agencies and county administrative boards are scheduled to present their final reports by September 1st.


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