|[Published: Thursday May 28 2020]
Covod-19: Sweden has the highest death rate in the world - and it’s getting even worse
STOCKHOLM, 28 May. - (ANA) - Sweden now officially has the worst coronavirus death rate in the world, calling in to question its controversial decision not to impose lockdown as the pandemic swept through Europe.
In early March, the country opted for minimal restrictions, including the banning of public events of more than 50 people, barring visits to care homes, non essential travel and anti-crowding rules in bars and restaurants.
The measures had a positive effect despite critics questioning Sweden's non-authoritarian approach. But from early April, the numbers began to change, showing the country's death toll was starting to climb.
Figures published by Our World in Data shows Sweden now has the highest death rate per capita in the world. In the seven days between May 12 and 19, Sweden reported, on average, 6.25 Covid-19 deaths per million per day.
The current Covid-19 death toll stands at 4,226 - almost 40 deaths per 100,000 people.
Yahoo News looks at three key factors in the Swedish government's decision to not impose a full lockdown and how they may have contributed to the rise in fatalities.
'Restrictions' on restrictions
The legal framework within which the government of Sweden operates does not directly allow it to impose draconian measures, such as a widespread or nationwide shutdown.
This is because there is no provision in the Swedish constitution that allows the imposition of a state of emergency during peacetime crisis. There are, however, provisions to do so if there is a war.
But on 16 April, the Swedish parliament passed a bill that granted the government decision-making powers to tackle the pandemic. The bill took effect two days later.
The government may use the powers close schools, restaurants, gymnasiums and businesses - but does not give it power to impose a nationwide curfew.
Voluntary measures 'easier to keep in place'
While Sweden suggested many familiar rules that other nations were following - such as keeping distance from others, refrain from going to work and avoid non essential journeys - the advice was issued by the country's Public Health Agency, rather than by the government.
As such, Sweden's 'restrictions' were more advisory than ruling, trusting that Swedes should exercise "common sense" and use "good judgement" when going about their daily lives.
But the country's former state epidemiologist, Annika Linde, has expressed doubts about the strategy adopted by the Swedish health authority, saying:
"Most likely, we would still be a bit worse off (than other Nordic countries) but better off than we are now, and we would possibly have gained time to prepare the strategy to protect the elderly," she said.
Barring visitors to care homes
One of Sweden's few restrictions was a ban on visiting elderly people in care homes. However, Public Health Agency figures show that almost half of the country's fatalities linked to coronavirus happened in residential homes.
However, there has been no clear reason for how elderly care home deaths rose so sharply in the country, although it is believed factors could include new arrivals to the homes, residents returning from hospital, asymptomatic staff and a lack of testing early on.
But Sweden's Health minister Lena Hallengren said the responsibility lay with 'countless actors' - as described the tragic number of care home deaths as a "society wide failure".
"Nobody can say anything other than that it is a society-wide failure that the infection entered the homes of the elderly and that we had in fact not equipped elderly care to cope with this situation, given of course that no one has really been able to figure out how to prevent this from ever happening," said Hallengren.
She continued: "I can't say that the government assumes all responsibility. That would be unreasonable when there are thousands of care homes and hundreds of actors.
"The main responsibility rests with the employers to make sure that their employees have the education they need to do their jobs, that they have the equipment they need to feel safe and be safe. - (ANA) -
AB/ANA/28 May 2020 - - -