'Sweden is at risk of a third wave of Covid-19': Public Health Agency

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'Sweden is at risk of a third wave of Covid-19': Public Health Agency
The risk of a third wave of Covid-19 increases if people socialise with people outside their small bubble, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell warned. Photo: Simon Samuelsson/TT

Sweden will be at risk of a third wave of Covid-19 infections if the public stop following recommendations, particularly around social distancing and keeping contacts to a minimum, the Public Health Agency has warned.


"There is a big risk of a third wave," said state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, "and a clear need to continue following the measures that we have in place".

The measures in place at the moment include working from home if you can (employers are supposed to ensure employees can do this if possible); getting tested and isolating if you have symptoms; and socialising only with a very small number of people. 

At its biweekly press briefing on Thursday, the Public Health Agency announced three recently published scenarios of how the spread of infection may look over the coming months, which are not forecasts but are used in the agency's planning.

"What varies between the different scenarios is how much contact we have with each other. That's what's fundamental; the more contacts we have, above all with new people we don't normally have contact with, the greater the risk of spreading infection," explained state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell. "Contacts should be limited as much as possible."


The scenarios also take into account the possibility of a new, more contagious variant of Covid-19 spreading in Sweden, but do not take into account the impact of vaccination. Tegnell said the vaccination programme is expected to reduce the risk of deaths in the short and long term, but will not reduce the spread of infection much to begin with, since it is the most vulnerable people currently being vaccinated, who have fewer contacts.

The first scenario (Scenario 0) was based on the low levels of close contacts and socialising that were observed over Christmas, which Tegnell said was unlikely to be the case due to people returning to work and school.

The second scenario (Scenario 1) was based on a "slow increase of contacts" at a similar level to autumn 2020, which would see significant burden on healthcare. 


The third scenario (Scenario 2) was based on what might happen if people have close contacts to an even greater extent than they did during autumn, and if this happens Tegnell says there is "a risk of a significant third wave, which could start relatively soon". In this scenario, the newly reported variant of the virus first reported in the UK (B117) would spread at a greater extent, because it is thought to be more contagious.

He warned that Sweden was "in a critical phase, it's very clear", and that people should not interpret the recent fall in reported cases as a sign to relax in following recommendations.

Sweden reported new cases at a rate of 404 per 100,000 residents over the past 14 days, showing a continued decline.

According to the most recent update from the ECDC, that's an infection rate similar to France (423 per 100,000 residents) and the Netherlands (372), less than Spain (1036), but higher than Germany (218) and Denmark (156). It's important to note that differences between testing rates mean it's hard to make direct comparisons between countries.

Other updates from the press conference:

  • The Local put some questions from our readers to state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell relating to the new requirement for a negative Covid-19 test for some foreign travellers to Sweden. We have added the updates to our article explaining the rules in detail: How exactly does Sweden's new Covid test requirement for travellers work?
  • A further 89 new deaths have been recorded, bringing Sweden's coronavirus death toll to 12,028. A total of 584,674 cases of the virus have been confirmed so far, and 4,857 people have received intensive care treatment.
  • A total of 276,008 people in Sweden (3.36 percent of the adult population) have been given at least one doses of vaccine, and 44,370 have been given both doses.
  • The Public Health Agency carried out a survey about attitudes towards vaccination among staff at elderly care homes, following reports of vaccine scepticism. In a survey of 100 people, 80 percent had already been vaccinated or planned to do so. 
  • National recommendations have been altered so that all children (people born 2002 or earlier) are permitted to take part in organised sporting activities both indoors or outdoors, but recommendations around social distancing and staying at home when sick should be followed.


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Anonymous 2021/02/09 12:29
Sweden's national recommendations are idiotic. Personal autonomy is lovely until you need the good of everyone to be more important than me. We need a lockdown, required masks with penalities for not wearing them, and closed borders, and we need those before the fourth wave hits.
Anonymous 2021/02/05 09:31
The second wave, which he originally denied, is still raging. This third wave is not a third wave. It’s the second wave and Tegnell’s failed approach coming up against the new and even more dangerous strains of the virus.
Anonymous 2021/02/05 05:01
Sweden is at risk of a third at last we are not in denial! So what next? What smart measures are the so called experts putting in place to limit the spread of more contagious variants? Surely it’s high time to learn from past passiveness? Sweden didn’t save enough lives but is so concerned with saving face.

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