• The head of Sweden’s coronavirus response said the country’s high death toll has “come as a surprise” and is “really something we worry a lot about.”
  • State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” that the Swedish strategy has still been successful in many ways.
  • But he said that the no-lockdown strategy was not a conscious decision in favor of more deaths – instead Tegnell said that high toll was not part of the plan.
  • Around half of Sweden’s deaths have been in nursing homes, where visitors are banned. Tegnell said health officials through it would be easier to keep the disease away from them.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The man leading Sweden’s coronavirus response said the country’s “death toll really came as a surprise to us” in an interview on the controversial strategy.

He denied that Sweden’s strategy to avoid a compulsory lockdown was a conscious decision to accept a higher death toll, and instead said that was never part of the plan.

Dr Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s state epidemiologist, described Sweden’s approach on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” on Tuesday.

He said: “We never really calculated with a high death toll initially, I must say.”

"We calculated on more people being sick, but the death toll really came as a surprise to us."

As of Tuesday, more than 2,700 people had died and more than 23,000 people had tested positive for the virus in Sweden.

Anders Tegnell Trevor Noah

Foto: Sweden state epidemiologist's Dr. Anders Tegnell and Trevor Noah on "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah." Source: YouTube/The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

Tegnell said there were good points to Sweden's unusual strategy, which largely relies on people to socially distance themselves without fixed rules.

But he admitted: "I am not saying we are successful in all different ways. I mean our death toll is really something we worry a lot about."

He noted that Sweden has had the same issue as many European countries: a significant number of deaths in nursing homes, even though visitors to such homes have been banned in Sweden.

"It's very difficult to keep the disease away from there. Even if we are doing our best, it's obviously not enough."

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But he said: "We are not putting anybody's lives above everybody else's lives, that's not the way we're working."

Tegnell said in late April that at least 50% of the country's deaths had been in nursing homes.

"We really thought our elderly homes would be much better at keeping this disease outside of them then they have actually been," he told Noah.

Sweden coronavirus

Foto: People sit and drink outside in Stockholm on April 22, 2020. Source: ANDERS WIKLUND/TT NEWS AGENCY/AFP via Getty Images

Sweden's death toll is currently far higher than its Nordic neighbours and many other countries that locked down.

Tegnell has previously said it is "very difficult" to know whether a lockdown could have prevented more deaths, especially because so many deaths have been in nursing homes.

You can watch Tegnell's appearance on The Daily Show here: