Currently, the health authorities say that a person who has self-isolated can leave quarantine after just two days once symptoms have cleared up. This contravenes World Health Organisation guidelines which state that people should confine themselves to their homes for 14 days, before re-emerging from their isolation. The two-day self-isolation period is based on the agency’s belief that asymptomatic transmission does not play a significant role in spreading the lethal virus.
However, a leading molecular virologist has questioned the science behind this decision and has called upon health officials to change their approach.
Lennart Svensson from the Karolinska Institutet medical university told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper that it was better to play safe than to take unnecessary risks.
He said: “I agree more with the WHO’s recommendations.
“We know that you can secrete the virus more than 48 hours after you have last had symptoms.
“I think it is better to be over-cautious than to be on the edge, because then you risk outbreaks of the elderly care homes, for instance.”
The Public Health Agency’s director general said that officials were constantly reviewing their recommendations.
John Carlson told reporters: “We are carrying on a discussion about this all the time, but we have yet to make our move.”
He added that the decision was “quite complicated” as many of those self-isolating probably did not have the virus.
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Sweden has adopted a very different approach to dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, based on “the principle of social responsibility.”
So far, the country has steered away from imposing strict lockdowns like in the rest of Europe and has allowed schools for under-16s, cafes, bars, restaurants and business to stay open.
Compared with the UK, the death rate from COVID-19 is low, but is much higher than its Nordic neighbours, who have followed the lockdown model.
Sweden’s virus death rate is 291 per million inhabitants – compared to Norway’s death rate of 40 per million, Denmark’s rate of 87, or Finland’s rate of 45.
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The unusual approach has failed to protect Sweden’s elderly population, with half of the fatalities from the deadly virus taking place in care homes.
Despite this, Anders Tegnell, the epidemiologist in charge of the coronavirus battle plan, robustly defended his policies, denying charges from his critics that he is running a high risk strategy.
He told John Ray of ITV News: “We’re definitely not gambling with lives.
“We’re trying to do the best we can with the knowledge we have.
“And so far if you look at the projections done by a number of modelers, the Swedish model has worked a lot better than people would have believed.
“They said that the Swedish healthcare would collapse already a month ago.
“It did not. It keeps on working.”
The head of the Public Health Agency believes that his model is sustainable for a long time, whereas those countries who have imposed tough lockdowns will have to end them sooner rather than later.
And when they do, the coronavirus caseloads will spiral back out of control.