Expert Predicts Coronavirus ‘Tragedy’ in Sweden as Deaths Increase

A medical staffer at Sophiahemmet hospital stands at the entrance of a tent for testing an

A Swedish infectious medicine professor has predicted the country may be headed towards “tragedy” as Chinese coronavirus fatalities surge, with old people’s homes accounting for a quarter of all deaths.

Björn Olsen, Professor of Infectious Medicine at the University of Uppsala, said that he fully expects the situation in Sweden to get much worse in the coming weeks and claimed authorities waited too long and did too little to address the outbreak of the virus.

Sweden, famously, adopted an exceptionally light-touch approach to the coronavirus pandemic, declining to ban travel from heavily-infected countries, allowing bars, cafes, and so on to remain open, and letting people continue gathering in groups numbering in the dozens.

“The pandemic comes as a flood on us. It’s like a wall of infection. We will have very high death rates in Sweden, especially in the Stockholm region, and we will see a huge increase in the coming weeks,” he predicted.

“I would not estimate how many I fear could die. It can be 5,000 or 10,000. What is happening now is that Sweden is heading towards a tragedy,” Olsen told Norwegian broadcaster NRK in an interview this week.

Professor Olsen went on to criticise the Swedish government’s response to the outbreak, saying that Stockholm should have been locked down a month ago to stop the spread of the virus.

In particular, Olsen singled out the Public Health Authority led by state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell for citicism. He said people within the health authority were simply uninterested in hearing the opinions of other experts.

“We were asked not to scare people and not panic. Such a situation was then the case with drastic measures. If we had created some fear, then it would have been good because when people get scared, things get done,” Olsen said.

Prior leaked emails have also shown experts criticise the health authority for not taking the outbreak of the virus seriously.

Figures released by the Stockholm region have revealed that up to a quarter of the confirmed deaths in Sweden have been residents of elderly and nursing homes.

When previously asked if he bore any personal responsibility for the outbreak in the nursing homes, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell rejected the notion, claiming that while it was a policy failure, it was also a collectively held responsibility.

Hospital workers are also at risk of infection. A Tuesday report claimed that up to half of the staff of a department at a hospital in the city of Linköping had become infected with coronavirus.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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