Sweden, one of the only countries in the world to shun lockdowns, is recording the highest number of Covid-19 cases per million in Europe.
The latest figures from Swedish authorities revealed that more coronavirus patients are currently being treated in intensive care in Sweden than at any point in 2021.
A total of 391 Covid-19 patients received intensive care treatment in Sweden on Monday, according to data from the country’s Intensive Care Register.
That marks an increase of roughly 65 per cent since the beginning of March – and a much higher figure than the peak of the second wave, which hit Sweden in early January.
While numbers are still lower than during the first wave, when close to 600 people were being treated in Swedish intensive care units, the country is recording 4,378 cases per million of its population – the highest figure in Europe.
The United Kingdom, on the other hand, is recording just 159 cases per million – the lowest figure in Europe.
Sweden, the anti-lockdown kingdom, now has the highest number of Covid cases per million in Europe pic.twitter.com/7T7sNHQhZy— Sam Bright (@WritesBright) April 12, 2021
More than 80 per cent of the patients in Swedish ICUs have some type of underlying health condition which puts them more at risk of serious illness, data showed,
Swedish health authorities are reportedly concerned that the number of people in intensive care will keep rising, as cases continue to tick up.
As of 9 April, 1,355,828 people – close to 17 per cent of Sweden’s adult population – had received their first dose of a vaccine against Covid-19.
Sweden’s ‘light-touch’ approach to tackling the pandemic has made it an international outlier.
Led by epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, the country’s hands-off strategy – eschewing a formal lockdown, declining to enforce the use of face masks and keeping bars and restaurants open – has divided opinion.
Many ardent lockdown-sceptics have cited Stockholm as a success because it kept schools, bars and restaurants open, supposedly avoiding the economic pain experienced elsewhere.
But support for the strategy among Swedes fell as the country was buffeted by a deadly second wave of Covid-19 earlier this year, which the scientists leading the battle against the pandemic said would not arrive.
Tegnell argued throughout spring and summer that Sweden would fare much better than Finland and Norway because of a higher level of herd immunity provided by the first wave.
“[Countries who locked down] are likely to be more vulnerable to these kind of spikes,” Tegnell told the Financial Times in September. “Those kind of things will most likely be bigger when you don’t have a level of immunity the can sort of put the break on it.”
But Sweden has now recorded nearly 14,000 coronavirus deaths since the start of the pandemic – compared to just 868 in Finland and 684 in Norway.
Polling late last year showed that the proportion of faiths supporting Tegnell had slipped, while an independent commission into the country’s handling of the pandemic was scathing in its criticism of the government, accusing them of failing to protect older people.