Sweden, Where No Lockdown Was Ordered, Becomes Second Most-Infected Country

Sweden's total number of coronavirus cases grew by more than 100 overnight Wednesday, making it the second most-infected country per capita in the world.

The Scandinavian country known for its light-touch approach to battling the pandemic reached 54,562 total cases Wednesday, according to covidgraph.com, which compiles current data from multiple government health agencies and universities across the world.

When adjusted to reflect Sweden's population of over 10 million, the country's total number of cases currently sits at 5,334 — dangerously close to numbers in the U.S., which currently leads the world in total coronavirus cases and deaths.

Adjusting the data to be based on a country's population and density gives a more precise overview of how the country responded to the virus, Francesco Tommasini, a fifth-year medical student from Milan and creator of Covidgraph, told Newsweek.

In Sweden, officials chose not to enforce a lockdown, but closed schools for those over 16 and banned large-scale gatherings of over 50 people. Shops, restaurants and gyms have been allowed to remain open.

Coronavirus in Sweden
The Drottninggatan in central Stockholm is seen on a sunny weather on May 30, 2020, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. Sweden, which chose not to impose a strict lockdown on its citizens, became the second most infected country in the world on June 17, 2020. HENRIK MONTGOMERY/Getty

The Scandinavian country was championed by many U.S. conservatives during the pandemic's early days as a model for how to handle the virus.

Instead of imposing strict government lockdowns, officials asked citizens to follow regulations, such as avoiding crowded places and ensuring that a proper distance is kept from others when out.

"All parts of society must contribute to the prevention of COVID-19, for example by staying informed and taking the appropriate precautions," wrote Folkhälsomyndigheten, Sweden's Public Health Agency, on its coronavirus FAQ page.

The agency wrote that citizens "do not have to do exactly as the guidelines say," as its "general guidelines are not binding" — they are simply recommendations.

The country reached a total of 5,041 recorded deaths due to the coronavirus, according to the Public Health Agency.

The agency was not available Thursday for immediate comment due to a holiday in Sweden, Kalle Asplund, a spokesman for the agency told Newsweek.

In an interview Sunday with state broadcaster SVT, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said that "it's too early to draw any definitive conclusions about the success of our strategy."

"We've followed the same main strategy as others," Lofven said. "Which in other words means keeping the contagion at levels that the health-care system can handle."

But Anders Tegnell, Sweden's chief epidemiologist, told Swedish Radio June 3 that there was "quite obviously a potential for improvement" in what the country could have done to combat the spread of the virus.