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No need for masks in Sweden

Sweden has been an outlier during this coronavirus pandemic, going down the road of doing very little to help stop the spread. Opinions on whether this policy of seeking ‘herd immunity’ has been a decent policy or not vary tremendously.

Across the globe, the issue of the importance of wearing a face mask is something that is seen as so vital that even US President Donald Trump has seemed to accept it to some degree. But not so the health officials in Sweden.

Anders Tegnell outside the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden

“It is very dangerous to believe face masks would change the game when it comes to COVID-19,” according to Anders Tegnel, chief epidemiologist at Sweden’s Public Health Agency, who is the main proponent of the country’s no-lockdown policy.

His position goes counter much other research that states face masks do prevent transmission and are vital for controlling the pandemic.

“Face masks can be a complement to other things when other things are safely in place. But to start with having face masks and then think you can crowd your buses or your shopping malls — that’s definitely a mistake,” he told the Financial Times.

“Face masks can be a complement to other things when other things are safely in place. But to start with having face masks and then think you can crowd your buses or your shopping malls — that’s definitely a mistake,” he said.

A view of Stockholm, capital of Sweden

Meanwhile, Sweden’s Scandinavian neighbours of Finland, Norway and Denmark have all been changing their positions on masks in the last week. In Denmark they are now required on public transport while in Norway they are recommended — at least during peak travel periods.

Earlier on Tuesday, Sweden’s public health agency said it was considering the option of recommending face masks for specific reasons, such as going to the hospital.

Earlier in the month, Tegnel also claimed that up to 30% of Sweden’s population could have been immune from COVID-19, but his claim wasn’t backed by data, Business Insider previously reported.

Most countries see masks and social distancing as essential

In Sweden, from January 3rd up to October 20th there have been 103,200 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 5,918 deaths, according to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics.

The daily death rate from COVID-19 has been steadily declining since its peak of 155 deaths on April 17, to zero deaths on October 18.

A Stockholm street

The daily number of confirmed cases has been picking up, with the statistics showing 970 new cases on October 15. This represented the highest daily rate since the previous peak of 1698 on June 25.

While it may discouraging that the daily rate of new cases in Sweden is increasing, it could be a good sign that in spite of that, the death rate has been declining.

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