In neighbouring Denmark, both new infections and the number of Covid-19 patients in hospital have increased in the past month.
“Many countries with a high vaccination cover are now also seeing increased spread of infection. It is of course important to try to understand why that’s the case and what driving forces are behind it,” Tegnell told Swedish news agency TT in a new interview, adding that although it is difficult to directly compare individual countries, a scenario similar to the one in Denmark could arise in Sweden.
“We hope that it won’t be as extensive and hit healthcare as hard as in Denmark, but we have to be prepared for the fact that it could happen,” he said.
Tuesday saw over 2,000 new cases of Covid-19 registered in Denmark for the sixth consecutive day, as the Danish government moved to reintroduce rules requiring a valid coronapas health pass at bars, restaurants, nightclubs and large events.
Sweden has not yet seen as dramatic a rise in new infections, although it should be noted that as of November 1st, fully vaccinated people are no longer urged to get tested if they get symptoms (unless they’ve been abroad or are contacted by contact tracers).
It is also worth noting that Sweden has generally followed a bit behind the rest of Europe on the curve, so a fourth wave this winter is not unthinkable, even if it comes a little later than in other places. Sweden has in fact started seeing a renewed increase: in the last two weeks of October, its 14-day incidence rate stood at 107 new infections per 100,000 people, up from 89 in the weeks October 11th-24th.
Tegnell told TT that if Sweden gets a major outbreak like the one in Denmark, the Public Health Agency may introduce new recommendations to encourage social distancing. Sweden lifted nearly all of its restrictions at the end of September.
He said that such recommendations could include renewed advice to work from home, or limiting crowds at events, but would not confirm exactly what they would entail. He said: “It has to be based on the situation we’re in.”
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More than 85 percent of over-16s in Sweden have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. But the vaccine cover varies significantly between age groups, from more than 90 percent of over-60s, but worryingly only around 75-77 percent of people aged 18-39.
Both vaccinated and unvaccinated can spread the virus to others, said Tegnell, who has urged more young people to get vaccinated.
“You must remember that this vaccine is great at protecting against serious illness and death and has a long-lasting effect. We have probably not lost that effect at all, almost. But it’s not particularly good at protecting against mild illness and infection,” he said.
“It doesn’t remove the infection in a way that we’re used to for other vaccines. It means you have to vaccinate a very large part of the population and even then we’ll probably have to live with a certain level of infection.”
Covid-19 vaccination is free for everyone in Sweden, regardless of whether or not you are a registered resident. To find out how to get vaccinated in your region, go to the 1177.se healthcare website and select your region under välj region in the menu bar.