Sweden's decision not to lock down its economy – allowing the coronavirus to run its course while the population reaches herd immunity – appears to be working, according to the Scandinavian nation's chief epidemiologist.
Anders Tegnell predicted herd immunity, when about 60% of a population is immune, will be reached in the capital, Stockholm, within two to three weeks.
Government officials have encouraged social distancing, banning gatherings of more than 50, and urge people over 70 or in a high-risk group to stay home. But they have not forced businesses, restaurants and schools to close, arguing people can be trusted to follow guidelines.
"In major parts of Sweden, around Stockholm, we have reached a plateau (in new cases) and we're already seeing the effect of herd immunity and in a few weeks’ time we’ll see even more of the effects of that," Tegnell, the chief epidemiologist at Sweden’s Public Health Agency, told CNBC on Tuesday.
"And in the rest of the country, the situation is stable," he said.
Sweden's number of deaths is higher than in other Nordic countries, with 16,700 cases and more than 2,000 deaths in a population of about 10 million.
Denmark, with a population of 6 million, has reported about 8,000 cases and 394 deaths. Among Norway's 5 million people, 7,400 cases and 194 deaths have been counted.
But Tegnell said the health system "has been able to cope."
And he said about 15 to 20% of people in Stockholm have reached a level of immunity that would "slow down the spread" of a second wave of the virus.
Swedish resident Johan Norberg, a senior fellow at the CATO Institute, argued in a Fox News interview Thursday night that the total lockdown approach of most nations aimed at "flattening the curve" only postpones the deaths.
The lockdown nations, including the United States, "won't avoid them because there is still no argument that has been made that suddenly this disease will go away after their lockdowns are over."
"And no society can be shut down completely and shut down the economy for more than a year without ruining society and the economy entirely," he said.
"And that will kill many more people than the virus does."
He said Sweden "will get through this" while protecting the vulnerable and the health care system.
By WND Staff
Government authorities, advisers and analysts who are calling for a continuation of the near-total lockdown of the economy are ignoring five key facts, contends a former top health official at the Stanford Medical Center.
Dr. David Atlas, now a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, argued in an column for The Hill that Americans "are now desperate for sensible policymakers who have the courage to ignore the panic and rely on facts."
"Leaders must examine accumulated data to see what has actually happened, rather than keep emphasizing hypothetical projections; combine that empirical evidence with fundamental principles of biology established for decades; and then thoughtfully restore the country to function," wrote Atlas, the former chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center.
The first fact, Atlas said is that the "overwhelming majority of people do not have any significant risk of dying from COVID-19."
He pointed to a recent Stanford University antibody study that estimates the fatality rate if infected with the coronavirus is likely 0.1% to 0.2%.
The World Health Organization estimate of 3.4% that prompted the isolation policies worldwide was 20 to 30 times higher.
The rate for people 18 to 45 years old in New York City, which accounts for one-third of all U.S. deaths, is 0.01%, or 11 per 100,000 in the population. For people under 18 years old, the rate of death is zero per 100,000.
Fact No. 2: "Protecting older, at-risk people eliminates hospital overcrowding."
In New York City, which has more than 34,600 hospitalizations, the rate of hospitializations from the virus for those under 18 years of age is 0.01%. Even for people ages 65 to 74, only 1.7% were hospitalized, Atlas argued.
Fact 3: "Vital population immunity is prevented by total isolation policies, prolonging the problem."
Atlas noted that decades of medical science shows that infection itself allows people to generate an immune response, controlling the spread in the population by "herd immunity."
"Indeed, that is the main purpose of widespread immunization in other viral diseases — to assist with population immunity," he said.
"In this virus, we know that medical care is not even necessary for the vast majority of people who are infected," he said. "It is so mild that half of infected people are asymptomatic, shown in early data from the Diamond Princess ship, and then in Iceland and Italy."
The asymptomatic population has been "falsely portrayed as a problem requiring mass isolation," he said.
"In fact, infected people without severe illness are the immediately available vehicle for establishing widespread immunity," Atlas wrote. "By transmitting the virus to others in the low-risk group who then generate antibodies, they block the network of pathways toward the most vulnerable people, ultimately ending the threat.
Fact 4: "People are dying because other medical care is not getting done due to hypothetical projections."
Atlas noted that states and many hospitals abruptly stopped "nonessential" procedures and surgery.
"That prevented diagnoses of life-threatening diseases, like cancer screening, biopsies of tumors now undiscovered and potentially deadly brain aneurysms," he said.
Fact 5: "We have a clearly defined population at risk who can be protected with targeted measures."
"The overwhelming evidence all over the world consistently shows that a clearly defined group — older people and others with underlying conditions — is more likely to have a serious illness requiring hospitalization and more likely to die from COVID-19," he wrote.
Therefore, the appropriate policy, "based on fundamental biology and the evidence already in hand," is "a more focused strategy."That would be to "protect the known vulnerable, self-isolate the mildly sick and open most workplaces and small businesses with some prudent large-group precautions."