Sweden declares the end of the pandemic, despite warnings from scientists

Sweden EFE/EPA/Johan Nilsson/TT SWEDEN OUT

As of Wednesday, February 9th, bars and restaurants will be able to reopen after 11 p.m. and without limits on the number of diners. Attendance limits at larger indoor venues were also removed, as was the use of mobility passes.

(SWEDEN – REUTERS).- Sweden ended most of its few pandemic restrictions on Wednesday, February 9th, and suspended almost all tests for Covid-19, despite the fact that the pressure on health systems remains high and some scientists called for more patience in the fight against disease.

The Swedish government, which throughout the pandemic has chosen not to impose restrictions in favor of a voluntary approach, announced last week that it would remove the remaining restrictions – effectively declaring the end of the pandemic – as vaccines and Omicron variant, less severe, have reduced severe cases and deaths.

“I would say that this pandemic is over as we know it,” Health Minister Lena Hallengren told Dagens Nyheter. “It’s not over, but as we know it in terms of rapid change and restrictions, it is,” she said, adding that Covid-19 will no longer be classified as a danger to society.

However, Swedish hospitals were still feeling the pressure, with some 2,200 people with Covid-19 requiring hospital care, about the same as during the third wave in the spring of 2021.

As free testing was curtailed earlier this month and effectively halted as of Wednesday, no one knows the exact number of cases.

“We should have a little more patience, wait at least a couple more weeks. We are rich enough to continue testing,” Fredrik Elgh, a professor of virology at Umea University and one of the harshest critics of Sweden’s no-lockdown policy, told Reuters . “The disease continues to be a huge burden on society,” he said.

The Swedish Health Agency said this week that large-scale tests are too expensive relative to the benefits. Sweden has spent about 500 million Swedish kronor ($55 million) a week on tests in the first five weeks of this year and about 24 billion kroner since the start of the pandemic.

On Wednesday, Sweden recorded 114 new deaths in which the deceased was infected with the virus. In all, 16,182 people have died from the virus or while infected with it. The number of deaths per capita is much higher than in the Nordic neighbours, but lower than in most European countries.

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