Swedish state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell may have broken the law by deleting emails from experts and government employees during the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.
Media law lawyer Jeanette Gustafsdotter said that if Tegnell had deleted emails containing content showing how public health decisions were made, the deletion could be a violation of the law.
“If the emails contain content that is essential to the Public Health Agency or concerns decisions that are made, they should definitely be saved. If emails containing that content had been deleted, it is absolutely misconduct, and the principle of public access has been breached,” she told Aftonbladet.
The newspaper reported that it became aware of the missing emails after requesting more than 200 of Tegnell’s emails from January to April after he and the Director-General of the Swedish Public Health Agency (FHM) Johan Carlson had spoken about wanting to be transparent.
Swedish Virus Deaths 'Catastrophically High' But Herd Immunity Not on Horizon https://t.co/dCU3qCmaY5
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Freedom of the press expert Nils Funcke agreed with Gustafsdotter, saying: “The crucial thing is the content. You must not delete letters or other documents that have added anything of significance to a case that has affected what has been concluded by the Authority. It’s direct misconduct. It’s a violation of the law.”
When confronted over the issue, Tegnell said the emails were likely missing because he had deleted them. But he claimed the deleted emails were not those that led to policy decisions.
Tegnell’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak has been criticised by many in the medical community in Sweden. Six experts signed a letter in May calling the death toll from the virus “catastrophically high”.
Sweden has seen over 5,700 deaths from coronavirus since the outbreak began earlier this year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Sweden’s Scandinavian neighbours, meanwhile, have seen far fewer cases and deaths.