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The man behind Sweden's no-lockdown approach says the country's high death toll 'really came as a surprise'

Sweden's coronavirus death toll is much higher than neighboring countries

Photo by JONAS EKSTROMER/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images

The scientist leading Sweden's coronavirus response said recently that the country's high death toll was not a part of the no-lockdown trade-off and that it "came as a surprise."

Dr. Anders Tegnell, Sweden's state epidemiologist, told "The Daily Show" host Trevor Noah on Tuesday that in choosing a less restrictive response to the virus, officials "never really calculated with a high death toll."

"We calculated on more people being sick, but the death toll really came as a surprise to us," he said.

Sweden's death toll as of Wednesday was reported to be more than 2,900, which is much higher than that of neighboring countries such as Norway, Finland, and Denmark.

Tegnell still argued that the country's controversial approach — which avoided shutting down businesses and schools and didn't implement shelter-in-place orders for residents — has still been successful in other ways, such as allowing the health system to continue functioning as usual. He also said that outside of Stockholm, the country's largest population area, the outbreak has been minimal.

Though he acknowledged: "I am not saying we are successful in all different ways. I mean our death toll is really something we worry a lot about."

Dr. Anders Tegnell - Sweden's Decision Not to Impose Quarantine | The Daily Social Distancing Show youtu.be

The death toll is linked to nursing homes

Like many places in Europe and around the world, Sweden has experienced a significant number of deaths in connection to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. The result comes even as Sweden has banned visits to such homes.

"It's very difficult to keep the disease away from there," he told Noah. "Even if we are doing our best, it's obviously not enough."

The Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported this week that at least 541 nursing homes across the country have had at least one case of the coronavirus. According to Forbes, the Swedish Health Agency is investigating the matter.

"We really thought our elderly homes would be much better at keeping this disease outside of them than they have actually been," Tegnell said.

Sweden's coronavirus response hinged on the goal of reaching some level of herd immunity in the country so that the spread could be slowed and the disease could be managed moving forward.

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