Photo Credit: Annika Linde's Facebook page
Sweden's former State Epidemiologist Annika Linde

Annika Linde, a Swedish physician and virologist who served from 2005 to 2013 as State Epidemiologist at the Swedish Institute for Communicable Disease Control, on Monday broke rank with the public health establishment in her country to announce she had changed her mind as a result of Sweden’s high death toll compared with the other Scandinavian countries, Denmark, Norway, and Finland.

“I think that we needed more time for preparedness. If we had shut down very early … we would have been able, during that time, to make sure that we had what was necessary to protect the vulnerable,” Linde told the Observer.

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Sweden, population 10.23 million, has diagnosed 33,843 coronavirus cases, which resulted so far in 4,029 deaths – 399 deaths per million. Denmark, population 5.806 million, has 11,387 cases, with 563 deaths – 97 deaths per million. Norway, population: 5.368 million, has diagnosed 8,364 cases, with 235 deaths – 43 deaths per million. Finland, population: 5.518 million, has 6,599 cases and 308 deaths – 56 deaths per million.

Interestingly, Israel, whose population is close to 9 million – roughly similar to Sweden’s, has diagnosed more cases than Denmark, Norway and Finland – 16,743, but ended up with only 281 deaths – only 31 deaths per million.

Linde said that she first agreed with the Swedish strategy, which sought to develop herd immunity (requiring that more than 30% be infected and overcome the virus – DI) by exposing the population to the pandemic. “The basic perception was, I think, that sooner or later, irrespective of what you do, you will have the whole population infected,” she said. “So when [the current state epidemiologist of Sweden] Anders Tegnell said ‘We will flatten the curve, and we will protect the vulnerable,’ I thought ‘We will reach herd immunity after a while. It could be a good strategy.’ I wasn’t that critical.”

However, while many other countries have managed to flatten the curve of infections significantly and brought down the death rate, Sweden was hurt more badly and failed to protect the high risk populations. The Guardian noted on Tuesday that for two days last week, Sweden had the highest per capita death rate in the world.

“This was like a dream that we could protect the elderly, with very little basis in reality,” Linde, who is 72, said.

Karin Olofsdotter, Sweden’s ambassador to the United States, told NPR on Monday: “I don’t think people are protesting on the streets but … there’s a very big debate, if this [strategy] is the right thing to do or not, on Facebook and everywhere.”

“Current investigations show different numbers, but [Stockholm’s immunity rate] is likely lower [than 30%]. As you might be aware, there is a problem with measuring immunity for this virus,” Ambassador Olofsdotter said.

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