Sweden nears ‘critical point’ as coronavirus cases surge

Sweden nears 'critical point' as coronavirus cases surge
Stockholm's Old Town last week. Photo: Amir Nabizadeh/TT
Last week the number of new weekly coronavirus cases in Sweden increased by 70 percent and the outbreak is approaching "a critical point", said state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell.

“It's one of the largest increases we have seen. Parts of this is due to more intensive contact tracing and testing, but we also definitely have an increased spread of infection,” Tegnell told the Swedish health authorities' bi-weekly press conference.

He did not say how many people Sweden tested last week, but a total of 148,267 coronavirus tests were carried out in the week ending October 18th. Of these, 3.9 percent tested positive, a rate that has been on the increase.

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The virus is currently spreading the most among people aged 20-60, but other age groups are also seeing an increase. There's also a small but clear increase in the number of Covid-19 patients admitted to intensive care.

A total of 55 people were being treated for Covid-19 in intensive care on Monday – or 15 percent of all patients in intensive care, according to the latest official figures.

“We're starting to approach a critical point here in Sweden as well,” said Tegnell.

The number of intensive care patients is still low compared to spring, when more than 500 Covid-19 patients were on ventilators at the peak, but it has doubled in the past week and the majority of Sweden's regions expect the current situation to deteriorate.

Asked whether Sweden may again introduce recommendations against domestic travel, as it did back in spring, Tegnell said the country had not yet reached that point.

“So far the differences are not that great, but a lot of regions are seeing an increase. We also think there's a lot to the advice on avoiding new contacts, because travelling almost always means new contacts,” he said.

As of Tuesday, Sweden has recorded a total of 115,785 cases of Covid-19 and 5,918 deaths.

According to figures shared by the Public Health Agency, the average rate of new cases per 100,000 people was 146 across the country as a whole over the last 14 days. This compares to figures of 149 in southern region Skåne, and rises to 194 per 100,000 in Uppsala and even higher at 197 per 100,000 in Stockholm.

Skåne on Tuesday became the second region in Sweden (following Uppsala) to roll out stricter coronavirus measures, including requiring everyone to avoid public transport and indoor venues such as shops, parties, and cultural venues. Read more about the new measures in Skåne here.

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