Sweden's coronavirus hospitalisations grow at fastest rate in Europe

Coronavirus hospitalisations are rising faster in lockdown-free Sweden than any other country in Europe

  • Sweden now has one of the fastest-growing coronavirus outbreaks in Europe 
  • Covid hospital patients doubling every eight days, fastest rate on the continent  
  • Cases also soared to record levels, as government pushes for an alcohol curfew
  • Sweden had previously touted its lockdown-free approach, saying its population would be better-protected from the virus after building up immunity

Lockdown-free Sweden is now seeing its hospitals fill with coronavirus patients at a faster rate than any other country in Europe. 

The number of people in Swedish hospitals with the virus is now doubling every eight days, according to data from the European Centre of Disease Control, with 2,866 people currently in intensive care.

That is a faster rate than both Austria and Slovakia, where hospital admissions are doubling every nine days, and Italy, where they are doubling every ten days.

Anders Tegnell, the architect of Sweden’s anti-lockdown strategy, had repeatedly suggested that the country would fare better than others during the second wave because of natural immunity built up during the first wave.

Sweden is suffering one of the fastest-growing coronavirus outbreaks in Europe, with hospitalisations doubling every eight days and cases soaring to record levels (pictured)

Deaths in Sweden have also begun growing, though at a slower rate than during the first wave of infections, amid warnings the country could soon be back where it started

He is due to speak at a press conference in Stockholm this afternoon, where he will be grilled over his strategy. 

Speaking to the Financial Times in May, Tegnell had said: ‘In the autumn there will be a second wave. 

‘Sweden will have a high level of immunity and the number of cases will probably be quite low.

‘But Finland will have a very low level of immunity. Will Finland have to go into a complete lockdown again?’

In fact, Sweden’s case totals have soared to record levels and are now above 4,000 cases per day, based on a seven-day average. 

That is far higher than any of its Nordic neighbours including Finland, which have favoured a cautious approach to lockdowns.

It also makes Sweden one of just a handful of countries including Italy, Poland and Portugal where cases are still rising steeply. 

Anders Tegnell, architect of Sweden’s lockdown-free strategy, had previously claimed that Sweden would fare better than other countries in the second wave after building up immunity

Other European hotspots such as the Czech Republic, Belgium, France, Spain and the UK have all seen cases fall dramatically after going back into lockdown. 

On Wednesday, Sweden was forced to announce that alcohol sales will be banned after 10pm across the country in an attempt to slow the spread of the disease.

The alcohol ban in bars, restaurants and pubs will take effect on November 20 and last until at least February, PM Stefan Lofven said.

‘All the indicators are pointing in the wrong direction,’ Lofven said at a press conference announcing the move, saying Sweden could soon be back in the same situation it was in during the spring. 

Stockholm, which has been at the centre of both waves of infection, reintroduced a ban on visiting elderly people in care homes after the virus began spreading there.

It comes amid warnings that the city has a higher rate of infection than anywhere else in the country, but is testing at a lower rate.

Councillors are now calling for an emergency meeting to address the situation, according to Expressen.

Sweden announced 4,467 new cases Wednesday, bringing the total to 166,707, while another 25 deaths took the overall tally to 6,082. 

Sweden announced a nationwide ban on the sale of alcohol after 10pm that will start next week and last until February (file image) 

After imposing only minimal restrictions in the spring, Sweden has now limited restaurant tables to eight people and urged people in many areas to work at home. 

The recommendations to avoid crowded places and avoid public transport now apply to more than half of Swedes.    

Last week, PM Lofven went into self-isolation after a close contact came down with the virus, but his office announced on Sunday that he had tested negative.  

Sweden’s resurgent epidemic has also led Norway to recall Home Guard forces to patrol the border between the two countries, which is the longest in Europe. 

Norway tightened coronavirus rules last week and extended its Schengen border controls for another six months.  

‘Civilian authorities do not have sufficient resources to enforce the new measures and have asked the Armed Forces for assistance,’ the military’s rapid mobilisation force said on Tuesday.  

Finland has also restricted arrivals into the country, but has left it up to regional leaders to apply the lockdown restrictions they think necessary to control the virus.

Those measures include bans on large gatherings, curfews on bars and restaurants, and advice to work from home where possible. 

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