Sweden went its own way in the coronavirus fight, adopting a relatively casual approach by shunning lockdown rules.
Now, it is facing up to the reality of those decisions.
The country’s Statistics Office revealed on Thursday morning (Australian time) it has recorded its highest tally of deaths in the first half of 2020 for 150 years.
The office said COVID-19 claimed about 4500 lives between January and June, bringing the total number of Swedish deaths for the six-month period to 51,405.
The last time so many Swedes died was in 1869 during a famine. In total, there were 55,431 deaths that year.
The population of Sweden was about 4.1 million then, compared to 10.3 million now.
In June, authorities in the Scandinavian country conceded they should have done more to combat the coronavirus and prevent a much higher death rate.
The coronavirus has claimed a further 1300 people since the end of June, bringing the total number of COVID-19 fatalities to about 5800.
But Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell has ruled out imposing lockdowns and continues to hesitate on face masks.
Dr Tegnell said “it is very dangerous” to think face masks could “change the game when it comes to COVID-19” without other measures.
He said there was “astonishingly weak” to suggest face masks actually work.
“Face masks can be a complement to other things when other things are safely in place,” Dr Tegnell told the New York Post.
“But to start with having face masks and then think you can crowd your buses or your shopping malls – that’s definitely a mistake.”
Dr Tegnell said lockdowns are not an effective way to beat the coronavirus.
Coronavirus behind spike in death toll
The virus accounts for a greater proportion of deaths of the population than in other Nordic countries, though lower than in some others including the United Kingdom and Spain.
COVID-19 meant that deaths were 10 per cent higher than the average for the period over the last five years, the Statistics Office said.
In April the number of deaths was almost 40 per cent higher than average due to a surge in COVID-related fatalities.
Sweden has taken a different approach to most European countries in dealing with the pandemic, relying to a greater extent on voluntary measures focused on social distancing and opting against a strict lockdown.
Most schools have remained open and many businesses have been continued to operate to some extent, meaning the economy has fared better than many others.
However, the death toll has been higher than in its Nordic neighbours, which opted for tougher lockdown measures.
Norway, with about half the population, has had only about 260 COVID-19 deaths in total.