Swedish authorities have conceded the country should have done more to combat the coronavirus and prevent a much higher death rate than in neighbouring countries.
Almost 4500 Swedes have died in the COVID-19 outbreak, a higher mortality rate than in Denmark, Norway and Finland, and criticism has been growing over the government’s decision not to impose lockdown measures as strictly as elsewhere in Europe.
“We have to admit that when it comes to elderly care and the spread of infection, that has not worked. That is obvious,” Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said.
“Too many old people have died here.”
Australia has so far recorded just 102 fatalities from 7240 confirmed cases, with 6649 infected patients recovered.
Eight new cases of coronavirus were recorded in Victoria on Thursday, including one detected through community testing.
Six of the new cases were people in hotel quarantine, while one was from the household contact of a known case.
New South Wales has reported two new cases, both of whom were travellers in hotel quarantine.
There were no new cases reported in other states and territories.
Anders Tegnell, the chief epidemiologist at Sweden’s Public Health Agency, said that in hindsight Sweden should have done more.
“If we were to run into the same disease, knowing exactly what we know about it today, I think we would end up doing something in between what Sweden did and what the rest of the world has done,” Mr Tegnell told Swedish radio on Thursday morning Australian time.
“Yes, I think we could have done better in what we did in Sweden, clearly.”
While most of Europe, including Norway, Denmark and Finland, closed schools, shops and businesses, bringing much of society to a halt, Sweden has relied more on voluntary measures, social distancing and common-sense hygiene advice to stem the outbreak.
It shut care homes to visitors in late March, but around half of the deaths in the country have been among elderly people living in care facilities.
Mr Tegnell said it was hard to know which measures taken elsewhere might have been the most effective in Sweden.
“Maybe we will find this out now that people have started removing measures, one at a time,” he said. “And then maybe we will get some kind of information on what, in addition to what we did, we could do without adopting a total lockdown.”
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said the government would launch an inquiry into the handling of the pandemic.