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Sweden’s COVID-19 death toll becomes highest in the world

Sweden had 6.08 deaths per million inhabitants per day between May 13 and May 20. This is the highest in the world, above the UK, Belgium and the US, which have 5.57, 4.28 and 4.11, respectively.

At this stage of the pandemic, the Scandinavian country has the highest mortality rate per capita, according to aFinancial Times trackerwhich uses a seven-day rolling average of new deaths.

In recent weeks, as the death toll has fallen significantly in other European countries such as Spain, Italy, France and the UK, Sweden’s has remained stubbornly high.

As of Wednesday, 3,831 people had died from COVID-19 in Sweden – a country with a population of 10 million. Denmark, Finland and Norway – which each have about 5m inhabitants – have recorded death tolls of 551, 301 and 233, respectively.

The FT tracker shows that Sweden had 6.4 deaths per million people 61 days after its death rate first climbed above 0.1 deaths per million. That contrasts with the UK’s 6.2 deaths per million at the same stage, Italy’s 5.5 and Spain’s 4.

Sweden’s no-lockdown approach to the virus has attracted international scrutiny and some criticism. However, Sara Byfors, a leading specialist at Sweden’s public health agency, said she was not aware of the tracker’s numbers.

“We are concerned about people dying from the disease. It’s not something we take lightly… We keep on working on our strategy,” Byfors said.

State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, the spokesman for Sweden’s outlier coronavirus strategy, dismissed the figures, arguing that it was misleading to focus on the death toll over a single week.

He has also suggested a second wave of the virus could be milder in Sweden than in countries where lockdowns were imposed.

“I think the Swedish strategy has proven to be sustainable. We get figures now that people are actually increasing their adherence to our advice, not decreasing,” Tegnell said.

Although Sweden’s hospitals have reported strained conditions, they have not been overwhelmed.

At the Danderyd Hospital in Stockholm, Klara Bergmark, head of the intensive care unit, told reporters from AFP that staff may be tired, but they are preparing to work at a heightened level over the summer and potentially “the whole year“.