SWEDEN is seeing a "very positive" decline in coronavirus cases following a controversial decision not to go into lockdown, its top epidemiologist has said.
Andres Tegnell called current trends "promising" and said he saw "no point" in asking people in the country to wear a face mask.
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Sweden has been an outlier in its response to the coronavirus and, unlike most countries around the world, never imposed a full lockdown.
People have been asked to work from home where possible, avoid unnecessary travel, and socially distance.
The government also banned gatherings of more than 50 people, banned visits to nursing home, and closed secondary schools and universities.
Primary schools have stayed open, in part to ensure more healthcare workers could continue going to work.
At the peak of the outbreak, the country was seeing 1,800 cases of coronavirus diagnosed per day, but that figure has now fallen into double digits.
There has been speculation that the lighter-touch approach will allow Sweden's population to develop "herd immunity", but the extent to which recovered coronavirus patients enjoy immunity remains uncertain.
Speaking to reporters in Stockholm on Tuesday, Tegnell said: "The curves go down, and the curves over the seriously ill begin to be very close to zero.
"As a whole, it is very positive."
He also addressed the question of face masks, which the World Health Organisation continues to recommend people use when social distancing isn't practicable.
“With numbers diminishing very quickly in Sweden, we see no point in wearing a face mask in Sweden, not even on public transport,” he said.
'JUDGE ME IN A YEAR'
Sweden's death toll, currently 5,702, has been high in comparison to neighbouring countries of a similar size.
None of Denmark, Norway, or Finland, each with a population roughly half that of Sweden, have seen their tolls rise above 1,000.
Many of the European countries that have begun to reopen their borders to foreign visitors are still yet to allow entry to people travelling from Sweden.
The country's healthcare system also initially struggled to cope with the impact of the virus, with 45 people at one point being admitted to intensive care every day, though that figure has now fallen to only a handful of people each week.
In cases per capita, Sweden now has a similar rate of infection to the UK, and its government has argued that its strategy will be easier to maintain in the long-term.
Speaking to Euronews this week, Jan Albert, a professor of infectious disease control at the Karolinska Institute and the author of a recent study on coronavirus in Sweden, said that the issue of herd immunity remained a "big unknown".
"There are so many unknown factors about how many actually develop antibodies and other types of immune responses after going through the disease, and how many will be required to have had the disease in order to see herd immunity," he said.
Speaking to Unherd about his country's response last week, Tegnell said: “It is better to have a more complete discussion around this in say 12 months, after next summer.
"Then I think we can more fairly judge what has been good in some countries and bad in other countries.”
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