Sweden’s state epidemiologist Tegnell hints new coronavirus measures on the way

Sweden's state epidemiologist Tegnell hints new coronavirus measures on the way
Sweden's state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
Sweden plans to announce a new package of coronavirus measures on Wednesday aimed at reducing the risk of a third wave of coronavirus infections over the coming months.

Speaking at the authorities' biweekly press conference, the country's state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said that several new recommendations would be announced, although he gave no further details.

“We have a package on the way which is going to be presented tomorrow [Wednesday],” he said.

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The new measures are coming as the country sees a sharp upturn in the number of cases, following more than a month of steady declines.

Sweden has now seen a rising number of cases for two weeks in a row, with an incidence rate of 445 new cases per 100,000 people over the past 14 days, which Tegnell described as “a much too high level”.

“In Sweden, we are unfortunately seeing a fairly significant rise once again,” Tegnell said, adding that a third wave in infections was now likely but still not inevitable.

“If we're lucky we can all help out, and if all these measures go well, then we can avoid it. But it's very clear that if we don't improve our adherence, then there's a very big risk that we're on the way into a third wave.”

A graph showing the number of Covid-19 patients in hospital (dark blue) and intensive care (light blue). Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

In the spring, the Public Health Agency recommended that people avoid all unnecessary travel more than two hours from where they lived.

Asked by The Local why such recommendations were not being considered during the current winter sports break (sportlov), Tegnell argued that conditions in the spring had been very different. 

“During the spring, we had for a while huge differences in the spread of the virus in different regions in Sweden… and at this stage, we have a fair amount of spread in all regions, so that reason for travel restrictions doesn't exist any more,” he said.

In addition, he said that the experience of Christmas had convinced the Public Health Agency that internal travel during public holidays was not a big risk. 

“We were quite worried that there would be a peak after the Christmas holidays, especially. But we could actually see that it peaked just before Christmas, and it kept on going down for several weeks after everybody returned, so that the holidays in themselves did not cause an increase of the number of cases,” he said.

“And it was sort of same after the summer. So we cannot really see that there is any direct connection between breaks and an increased spread of the virus.”

Tegnell said that the more infectious British variant was spreading extremely rapidly, and was now being detected in as many as 27 percent of all virus samples tested in Stockholm, the region where it was most established.

He said it now seemed “almost inevitable” that the variant would become the dominant one in both Europe and Sweden, “within a few weeks or a month”.

Asked how worried he was that vaccines would be less effective against the British variant, Tegnell said he saw “no risk at all”.

“It seems to work just as well. With the two others [the Brasilian and South African variant], it's a little unclear,” he added, but he said that there seemed little risk that they would become sufficiently widespread to be a serious problem.

Member comments

  1. Living carefree during a pandemic. If only! We are living in one of the least restricted countries in the world right now and instead of taking advantage of that – to have a semi normal life – we are abusing it! We shouldn’t even need a government or public health expert to tell us to wear a mask on public transport- it’s just common sense! It is understandable that after a year we are all eager to get back to living ”normally” again but if we don’t act responsibly now we are in for a rude awakening- AGAIN. It’s not about ranting …..it’s a deep frustration felt by those of us that do care.

  2. I guess that’s what I meant by narcissistic teenager: self-absorbed and sulking.
    If you have the courage to give your amazing ‘let me
    live my life’ spiel to someone you actually care about, who is about to croak…well, at least you’d be coherent. Otherwise go can’t take that position seriously. Bottom line: if you held your government to higher standards than the mediocre administering they’re currently engaging in, all of us could live our lives with less restrictions. Right now however, I think you’re being taken for a ride, buddy!

  3. Stop these phobic rants under every covid-related article. Whoever is afraid to live is welcome to lock themselves in their bathroom and come out in a few decades. Let the rest of us who are not afraid of living, live our lives. The restrictions and anti-covid measures are profoundly undemocratic and trample half the bill of human rights. The majority of us want to kiss, hug, travel, socialize and live carefree. The rest of you can wear 100 masks at the same time, or even an astronaut suit, and live your lives through a screen. Your fears are yours to deal with.

    Sweden, remove all restrictions and be again the beacon of democracy and human rights you set out to be.

  4. While I’m at it: just starting to read up on this Facebook group by the Irish guy. When I heard about it, I expected a radicalised anti-Christ traitoring and dis-information peddling etc…but nah: seems like a normal activist. The borderline allergic response by Swedish media / radio is embarrassing and reveals a level of immaturity that I found profoundly disturbing. The way that criticism to government policy is often dealt with in the media and in comments is demonstrating deep insecurity and lack of courage and care. If national television is to be believed, the main thing that Little Sweden is concerned about is when ‘we can have a wedding party’ / ‘go to Thailand again’. It says a lot about the deficits of a nation when this is your main concern in a time of true crisis. Somewhere along the way, Sweden seems to have started to check out of caring about actually important matters. It’s all form now, and no grit, no spine. Happy skiing!

  5. Hi Oliver yes there is fear: for the lives of others. Thing is, I’m not asking for inhumane sacrifice. I’m asking for basic solidarity and empathy. Your position sounds great on paper – until it’s you or a loved one that you concretely fear for. A truly progressive society (that Sweden could be) wouldn’t behave like a narcissistic teenager. It would show grace and a mature measured approach, driven by inclusive policy that has the weaker members of society on its radar. Not a half-assed survival-of-the-fittest, slogan driven simplification of the matter.

    You know as well as anyone that with proper focus on test-and-trace, a proactive & aggressive vaccination drive and strict distancing measures this country could open up quicker than Tegnell can spell “I cocked up”. Right now, all we do here is keep hanging the bar low and see what happens. Sweden, you can do better.

  6. These comments show how much unnecessary fear there is in society. Sweden needs to open up more, mental health is suffering, the young are suffering, the poor are suffering. And the hospital’s have plenty of capacity at the moment.
    Anyone who wants to stay at home, do so, but let the rest live their lives.
    There was plenty of time to up healthcare capacity, so no need for any restrictions.

  7. Another round of useless, pathetic ‘recommendations’. What a joke. I cannot wait to get out of this joke of a country. Ridiculous alcohol sale laws, mountains of bureaucracy, yet they cannot implement effective measures and restrictions to get COVID numbers down. Everywhere I go I see cafes flouting the guidelines and large groups of people getting together. Start fining people and shutting down businesses and in fact just introduce a hard lockdown- now.

  8. I agree with the above comments. They are just now asking people to wear masks, and only sometimes and some places. They say there isn’t enough evidence to prove they help and that it can give people a false sense of security so they won’t distance. I don’t see that many people distancing anyway, and there is sufficient scientific evidence that proves masks make a difference. People are not following store guidelines for how many people are aloud in, they all just crowd in anyway. I feel like very few people care. I think Sweden has had it safe way too long and the people feel like they are invincible. Bad things can happen here!
    I also am appalled with the way the elderly have been treated throughout all this. It is really criminal, in my opinion that many were left to die. This should not happen in a society like Sweden! These people helped make this country what it is today and now they are being treated like they are nothing.
    I also agree with Hannes that Tegnell is treating the population as if it’s some sort of lab equipment. We are all just numbers to him, not people with actual lives and loved ones.
    I think people don’t care until it affects them personally. It’s a selfish society. I’m very disappointed with humans these days!

  9. Ok I’m almost done now and will shut up after this but let me get this straight: it’s possible to nanny around an entire adult population and tell them exactly when (and when not !) to buy alcohol but it’s not possible to ask people to commit to distancing and mask wearing by thread of a fine? That is ludicrously negligent. The entire nation is gaslighting itself.

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