“Never, never ever,” Löfven told the Committee on the Constitution when asked whether herd immunity was part of the Swedish government’s strategy.
Allegations that Swedish decision-makers deliberately allowed the virus to spread slowly through the population in order to achieve herd immunity have repeatedly been denied, but have emerged and reemerged on several occasions in the past year, including in emails between health officials.
Löfven insisted that the strategy was always to limit the spread of infection to protect people’s lives and health, and make sure that the Swedish healthcare sector could cope.
The Social Democrat leader’s appearance before the Committee on the Constitution comes as part of an inquiry launched by an opposition politician to investigate the Swedish pandemic strategy and crisis management, and several key figures have already been questioned, among others the heads of the Public Health Agency, National Board of Health and Welfare, and the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions.
Health Minister Lena Hallengren and Home Affairs Minister Mikael Damberg have also appeared before the committee in recent weeks, and have been questioned about the speed and timing of Sweden’s measures, and the government’s responsibility for a shortage of protective equipment in the early weeks of the pandemic.
Much of the inquiry has focused on whether or not a formal government decision regarding Sweden’s coronavirus strategy was ever made, and if not, why not. Löfven reiterated that there was no such decision, although he said the government did choose a strategic direction.
Löfven was also asked about the role of the Public Health Agency, whose civil servants have taken a more leading role than the government itself during the pandemic. He was asked whether the agency was given too prominent a role in handling the pandemic.
“Of course the Public Health Agency is an expert authority with a number of prominent experts, and it is obvious to me that we listen to them. If you turn it around, it would be a dereliction of duty not to listen to what they have to say,” said Löfven.
The committee also grilled Löfven on why the government didn’t immediately start working on Sweden’s temporary Pandemic Law – which gives the government more far-reaching powers to introduce coronavirus restrictions – when a previous, similar but not as comprehensive, law expired in June. Work on new legislation didn’t get under way until August, and the Pandemic Law was only passed in December.
“One reason was that the spread of infection then, during the summer, was completely different,” said Löfven, referring to the fact that Sweden at the time had a relatively low spread of coronavirus. He said that the government acted when the second wave was starting to pick up pace. “It was a dramatic development, so we needed that (legislation) in place as fast as possible,” he said.
Almost one million people have tested positive for coronavirus in Sweden to date, almost 14,000 of whom have died.
You can watch Löfven’s hearing online (in Swedish) HERE.