Sweden has recorded the lowest rate of positive coronavirus tests since the pandemic began, despite the country having never entered a full-scale lockdown.
The Scandinavian country’s health agency said 1.2% (just over 1,300) of the 120,000 COVID-19 tests carried out last week came back positive, well below the 19% seen during some weeks in spring, Reuters reports.
The news comes as European states, including those like France and Spain which imposed restrictive lockdowns on their populations, contend with rising numbers of infections.
Sweden emphasised personal responsibility, social distancing and good hygiene as it tried to slow rather than eliminate the virus, and World Health Organization officials said it was a sustainable approach.
Nonetheless, the strategy drew criticism within Sweden and overseas as deaths rose during spring, and the 5,800 fatalities is much higher per capita than its neighbouring countries but lower than the UK, Spain and Italy.
The country has recorded more than 85,000 cases since its outbreak began, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Now, deaths, hospital admissions and new cases have dropped to low levels.
Jonas Ludvigsson, professor of epidemiology at Karolinska Institutet, said Sweden likely had a higher level of immunity in its population than other countries.
“Our strategy has been consistent and sustainable. We probably have a lower risk of spread here compared to other countries,” he said.
However, the approach has been criticised, with an editorial in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper saying the people praising Sweden’s strategy had forgotten those who died, adding that the death toll was five times higher than Denmark’s.
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