My Account Log Out

‘We see no point in wearing a face mask,’ Sweden’s top virus expert says as he touts the country’s improving COVID numbers

That Sweden has come down to these levels is very promising, said state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell.

Subscribe to Outbreak, a daily roundup of stories on the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on global business, delivered free to your inbox.

As other countries face renewed outbreaks, Sweden’s latest Covid-19 figures suggest it’s rapidly bringing the virus under control.

“That Sweden has come down to these levels is very promising,” state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told reporters in Stockholm on Tuesday.

The Health Agency of Sweden says that since hitting a peak in late June, the infection rate has fallen sharply. That’s amid an increase in testing over the period. “The curves are going down and the curves for the seriously ill are beginning to approach zero,” Tegnell said.

The development follows months of controversy over Sweden’s decision to avoid a full lockdown. The unusual strategy coincided with a much higher Covid-19 mortality rate than elsewhere in the Nordic region. Per 100,000, Swedish deaths even exceeded those in the U.S. and Brazil.

On Tuesday, Sweden reported two new deaths, bringing the total to 5,702.

Masks

Tegnell also broached the subject of face masks, which the World Health Organization recommends people use when social distancing isn’t possible.

“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.

Tegnell has consistently argued that Sweden’s approach is more sustainable than the sudden lockdowns imposed elsewhere. With the risk that Covid-19 might be around for years, he says completely shutting down society isn’t a long-term option.

Meanwhile, many countries that thought they’d brought the virus under control are now seeing second waves. Tegnell called those developments “worrying.”

“The positive trend is reversing, with an increase in the number of cases in Spain, Romania and Belgium, among others,” he said.

More coronavirus coverage from Fortune: