Sweden on Thursday reported more than 3,000 coronavirus deaths, after gaining international attention for imposing softer lockdown measures than many of its hard-hit European neighbours.
The Public Health Agency of Sweden said it had recorded 3,040 deaths and 24,623 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the country of some 10.3 million inhabitants.
But officials defended their strategy of not imposing strict stay-at-home measures, saying Sweden’s healthcare system still had spare capacity.
“The curves show that we have, to a large extent, been successful in keeping (the outbreak) within the limits of what the healthcare system can manage,” state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told reporters.
Sweden has not imposed the kind of extraordinary lockdown measures seen elsewhere in Europe, instead opting for an approach based on the “principle of responsibility”.
The Scandinavian country has kept schools open for children under the age of 16, along with cafes, bars, restaurants and businesses, while urging people to respect social distancing guidelines.
The Swedish approach has received criticism both domestically and abroad, particularly as deaths lept passed tolls in neighbouring Nordic countries, which have all imposed more restrictive containment measures.
According to the website Worldometer, Sweden’s virus death rate of 301 per million inhabitants is far higher than Norway’s death rate of 40 per million, Denmark’s rate of 87, or Finland’s rate of 46.
However, it is still lower than the UK’s 443, Italy’s 491 and Spain’s 558.
Despite the criticism, Swedish officials have insisted their plan is sustainable in the long-term, rejecting drastic short-term measures as too ineffective to justify their impact on society.