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En utskrift från Dagens Nyheter, 2021-10-25 19:47

Artikelns ursprungsadress: https://www.dn.se/nyheter/sverige/anders-tegnell-there-are-things-we-could-have-done-better/

SVERIGE

Anders Tegnell: There are things we could have done better

Swedens state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell.
Swedens state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell. Foto: Alexander Mahmoud

Sweden should have begun testing sick people in geriatric care a lot quicker, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell says.

– There are things that we could have done better, but generally I think Sweden has chosen the right track, he says to DN.

On Wednesday Swedish Radio published an interview with the Swedish state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell. In the interview he said that the Swedish handling of the pandemic, in hindsight, could have been better.

International media outlets have reported about the interview. British The Guardian writes that ”the architect of Sweden’s light-touch approach to the coronavirus has acknowledged that the country has had too many deaths from Covid-19”. American New York Times, German Die Zeit, Italien La Stampa and Norwegian Aftenposten have also quoted the interview with Tegnell.

– I think it was spun pretty hard, Anders Tegnell tells DN.

Anders Tegnell is clear that there are things that would have been done differently if the Public Health Agency had known more about the virus and how it spreads, when they made their first decisions. But at the same time he says that no-one really knew much, and he doesn’t believe that a lockdown of society would have been a better solution than the track Sweden chose:

– Sure, we will do it better next time. That is something we all have to think about. Anything else would be strange. But then we also have to know everything that we didn’t know back then. Because this time we didn’t know anything. Everyone was fumbling. I am convinced that there are things that could have been done better if we were put in the same situation again, knowing a a lot more.

What is it that we didn’t know then, that we know now?

– Quite a lot. We didn’t know that there would be such a big potential for contagion in care homes, with so many deaths. We knew that group was very vulnerable and that we would have a high mortality rate if they were infected, but not that the infection would get in so easily and be so extensive.

Anders Tegnell also says that they knew very little about how the virus spreads in the community:

– To begin with it was pretty unclear in what circumstances the virus would be spread the most, but now we know a bit more. We didn’t know a lot about super spreaders and how important they seem to have been for the spread of infection. There is a lot that we know today that we didn’t know then, and that to a certain extent would affect the spread.

So what do you think has worked?

– We went the right way to begin with in focusing a lot on social distancing and minimizing physical contact. That is clear from a study in The Lancet which states that social distancing is the most important thing to stop contagion. To keep away from each other as much as possible.

Sweden chose a different path than our neighboring countries and a lot of other countries around the world. For example by not closing down big parts of the country. Do you think you should have acted in a different way?

– I think many of the countries that closed down everything straight away could think about whether it was really adequate to close as much as they did. Could they have been more focused and still have had the same effects? You don’t close off societies if you don’t have to, Anders Tegnell says.

He doesn’t believe that a lockdown would have been the right track for Sweden.

Are there parts that we should have closed?

– It’s not obvious from what we know so far. I don’t think it is. There are no activities that we can point to as extremely vulnerable. There aren’t.

It’s obvious that everything hasn’t gone as well as it could have. What would have made the situation better?

– It is obvious that it could have been better. And that comes down to social distancing. If you close society and don’t let people our for six, eight, ten weeks you will have a more obvious social distancing than otherwise.

– But I think the fundamental strategy has worked well. I can’t see how we could have acted in a totally different way. Of course there are details which you can think about, and we do that continuously. We have also made small changes all the time, and will certainly continue to do so.

Will what you are saying now affect the future strategy?

– No, we still have very good grounds for the social distancing efforts that have been taken, and that have had effect. We have stayed on a level which has made it possible to have a good health service and so on. Now we and others are working on improving the situation for the care for the elderly.

So the decisions taken by you and the Public Health Agency at the start of the pandemic, you still stand by them?

– Based on the knowledge we had then we are still in agreement that the decisions that were taken were adequate. Based on the knowledge we had then.

Are you self-critical about anything, when you look back at the past months?

– Yes, and that has a lot to do with the care homes. A lot of people are involved in that, not just the Public Health Agency. We should have been better in many ways, that is clear. We should have been able to start testing much quicker than we did.

When will we see a change in the high death toll per day, we still have 50 deaths per day on average?

– We have had a downward trend during the last four, five weeks. We have gone from almost 100 per day to 50 per day. We really hope that trend will continue.

– But the number of people who die is still very high.

Translation to English: Evelyn Jones.

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