Amid fears over a potential second wave of the novel coronavirus across Europe, new infections in Sweden, where full lockdown measures were not implemented, have mostly declined since late June.
The number of new cases per 100,000 people in Sweden reported over the last 14 days since July 29 dropped by 54 percent from the figure reported over 14 days prior to then, according to the latest report Wednesday from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Meanwhile, other parts of Europe have reported large spikes in new cases over the same period, including Spain, France, Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands, which have seen increases between 40 and 200 percent over the last month, according to the latest WHO report Wednesday.
The seven-day rolling average of Sweden's daily new cases has been dropping consistently since June 29. Its daily case count has been mostly decreasing since June 24, when it reported 1,803 new infections, its largest single-day spike since the outbreak began, according to data compiled by Worldometer.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new deaths in Sweden has also been declining since around April 15, when it reported a record daily death count of 115. The country's latest seven-day rolling averages for daily new cases and daily new deaths stand at 154 and 2.
However, the Scandinavian nation ranks eighth among countries with the highest number of COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people. It outranks the U.S. and Brazil, which are the world's first and second worst-hit nations in terms of total cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Last week Anders Tegnell, the chief epidemiologist at Sweden's public health agency, who has led the country's COVID-19 response, said the nation's controversial anti-lockdown strategy has been a success "to a great extent," in an interview with UnHerd.
While an official lockdown was never ordered, Tegnell noted: "We have cut down on movement in society quite a lot. We have compared how much we travel in Scandinavian countries, and the decrease in travel is the same in Sweden as in neighbouring countries. In many ways the voluntary measures we put in place in Sweden have been just as effective as complete lockdowns in other countries.
"We are now seeing rapidly falling cases, we have continuously had healthcare that has been working, there have been free beds at any given time, never any crowding in the hospitals.
"The failure [of the strategy] has of course been the death toll…that has been very much related to the long-term care facilities in Sweden. Now that has improved, we see a lot less cases in those facilities," Tegnell said.
When asked whether having a lockdown in Sweden could have made a difference on the impact of the outbreak, Tegnell told UnHerd: "It would have made maybe some difference, we don't know…we also have to look at what are the negative effect of lockdowns, and that has not been done very much so far."
The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the number of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. states and the European Union.
Sweden has reported nearly 79,800 confirmed cases, as of Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University. Last month, Sweden was the second most-infected country per capita in the world.
Instead of a lockdown, Sweden aimed to develop "herd immunity," hoping that an increased number of people exposed to the virus will help to prevent a second wave of infections.
Several academics as well as teachers and parents in Sweden have previously spoken out against the country's anti-lockdown strategy and the risks imposed on children's health, among other issues.
As of Thursday, there are nearly 1.8 million (1,704,897) confirmed cases reported in the European Union/European Economic Area and the U.K., according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
More than 17 million people globally have been infected since the virus was first reported in Wuhan, China, including over 4.4 million in the U.S. Over 9.9 million globally have reportedly recovered from infection, while over 667,600 have died, as of Thursday, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.
The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates U.S. states with more than 100 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the past week.