Sweden itself has registered one of the highest per capita deaths linked to the virus on the continent. Unlike Italy, Spain, France and the United Kingdom, Sweden did not impose a lockdown.
Swedish state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell spoke with Swedish Radio, a public broadcaster, over the weekend, explaining that Italy relied on “fewer resources” to fight the virus.
The comments hit a nerve in Italy, where more than 33,000 people have died from covid-1
“Everyone outside of Italy should only express praise and solidarity to our country and our people,” the Italian ambassador to Sweden, Mario Cospito, wrote in a reply Wednesday, citing Italy’s high life expectancy and its high ranking in international health system comparisons.
Cospito added that Sweden and other countries had more time to prepare for the arrival of the pandemic, as Italy was the second major core of the outbreak after China.
Sweden’s handling of the outbreak has been controversial. By refraining from imposing a lockdown, critics have argued, the country voluntarily accepted one of the world’s highest death rates per capita, with particularly nursing homes very severely affected.
Swedish health officials have acknowledged the toll the virus has taken. “Our biggest failure has been our elderly population,” recently told The Washington Post, Karin Ulrika Olofsdotter. But officials have also noted what they see as success, including citizens who act responsibly without the government being forced to impose major restrictions.
Tegnell also referred to “a level of immunity in the population” in the capital, Stockholm, to defend the approach and suggested that it could better prepare the country for a second wave of infections.
Later on Friday, both the Nordic countries Denmark and Norway announced that they would ease the travel restrictions between their respective countries, but exclude Sweden because of its coronavirus number.