Dr Anders Tegnell

Anders Tegnell Lands Job at WHO

Anders Tegnell is leaving his post as Chief Epidemiologist of Sweden to take up a role at the World Health Organisation. Reuters has the story.

The man who became the face of Sweden’s no-lockdown pandemic policy, Anders Tegnell, is stepping down as chief epidemiologist to take up a role at the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Swedish Health Agency said on Wednesday.

Tegnell, whose almost daily news conferences had Swedes glued to their screens for much of the pandemic, will become a senior expert at a WHO group tasked with coordinating the Covid vaccine response between health and vaccine organisations.

Tegnell proved a polarising figure at the Health Agency. He was forced to have police protection after he and his family received death threats but his face has also featured on T-shirts with the slogan “In Tegnell we trust”. Some people even got Tegnell tatoos…

When much of the world scrambled to lock down as the coronavirus spread like wildfire in winter and spring 2020, Sweden stood out by opting for mild and voluntary measures. It kept schools open while most restaurants, bars and other businesses never shut. Mask were never recommended.

Tegnell, 65, argued that lockdowns were not sustainable and that voluntary measures could achieve the same results without damaging the trust between authorities and the public.

I hope he wasn’t pushed out in Sweden following the official inquiry, which while affirming his general no-lockdown approach, also criticised the lack of earlier action on masks, shops and restaurants and, pointedly, criticised the Government for following his advice too closely.

Sweden has recommended against Covid vaccines for children under 11, so perhaps Tegnell will take some of that scepticism about the safety profile of these vaccines to his new role. We might also hope he will be a sceptical influence in any development of future pandemic guidance to avoid lockdowns and other draconian measures being normalised.

Worth reading in full.

Sweden Was Right to Avoid Lockdowns But Wrong Not to Impose Restrictions and Masks Sooner, Inquiry Concludes

Sweden’s official inquiry into its handling of the pandemic is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it comes out firmly against lockdowns – understood as stay-at-home orders – and affirms the decision not to close schools. On the other hand, it criticises the Government for not being quicker to restrict indoor meeting spaces such as shops and restaurants, to bring in masks, and for relying too much on the advice of its Public Health Agency, including Anders Tegnell, the State Epidemiologist – despite it being his advice to swim against the flow and resist lockdown. The Telegraph has the story.

Recurring lockdowns imposed across Europe to curb COVID-19 were neither “necessary” nor “defensible”, Sweden’s official inquiry into its handling of the pandemic has concluded.

In its final report, the country’s Coronavirus Commission strongly supported Sweden’s pandemic strategy, concluding that the decision to rely primarily on “advice and recommendations which people were expected to follow voluntarily” had been “fundamentally correct”.

The decision not to impose mandatory restrictions meant that Swedes “retained more of their personal freedom than in many other countries,” the report concludes.

In addition, the commission writes that it is “not convinced that extended or recurring mandatory lockdowns, as introduced in other countries, are a necessary element in the response to a new, serious epidemic outbreak”.

Several countries which did impose lockdowns, it notes, had “significantly worse outcomes” than Sweden, while the restriction of individual freedom was “hardly defensible other than in the face of very extreme threats”.

So far so good. But it goes on to say that measures were “too few and should have come sooner”.

The Lessons SAGE Needs to Learn from Sweden’s Anders Tegnell

There follows a guest post by a reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, who has spotted another important difference between the U.K. and Sweden.

The Prime Minister will be given another crucial SAGE briefing at the start of the New Year, when, once more, he will presumably be steered towards a decision on more restrictions for businesses and the general public by the use of models.

If Professor Graham Medley, the chair of SAGE’s modelling committee, takes part, we can, of course, expect that he will only present a worst-case scenario.

In stark contrast, the Swedish state epidemiologist, Dr Anders Tegnell, known for his aversion to lockdowns from the beginning of the pandemic, routinely produces models with several scenarios and I have yet to see evidence that they are presented to his Government with all scenarios expunged, barring the worst one. 

I’ve applied, below, the ‘SAGE’ presentation principle to Tegnell’s latest Covid models, created last week for the Swedish government.

It’s striking that even the worst ICU forecast is only for a peak of around 50 new patients in mid-January, which would equate to around 280 in England, if the difference in population size is taken into account, whereas the best is little more than the current figure of barely 10, equating to 56 in England.

As of December 29th there were 771 patients in ICU units in England who have tested positive for Covid, with no forecasts for future numbers made public. This is numbers in ICU, however, not new admissions. While new ICU admissions are not published on the Government dashboard, recently numbers in ICU have been declining rather than rising.

Sweden Avoided a ‘Pingdemic’. Why Couldn’t We?

A reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, has sent the following post, comparing Britain’s enthusiastic embrace of a contact-tracing app with Sweden’s more considered approach.

As the U.K.’s ‘pingdemic’ spreads ever wider, wreaking havoc on hospitals, care homes, schools, supermarkets, and the economy, one person at least might afford himself a wry smile.

In the early months of the pandemic, many Swedish epidemiologists, virologists and other medical specialists implored their Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Health Minister Lena Hallengren to build a contact-tracing app. Tech companies fell over themselves to claim they had the necessary expertise to do just that. Development actually got underway, but once state epidemiologist Dr Anders Tegnell and his team had evaluated the viability of such an app and come to the view it would cause excessive fear and large-scale disruption, Löfven was talked out of it and all work ceased.

In an interview on Swedish Television in May of last year, Tegnell said he didn’t think the idea of an app had been “properly thought through'” (He could have said the same of a great deal else of U.K. pandemic decision-making and implementation). He foresaw large numbers of ‘pings’ being generated and vast resources being expended on staffing and testing. Many people would be worried for no good reason and hospitals and care homes would come under more pressure as staff would have to self-isolate. He also questioned whether a distance as great as two metres for a period as short as 15 minutes were appropriate parameters.

Tellingly, when asked: “Wouldn’t it be worthwhile at least in controlling the spread of infections?”, he replied: “Few of the contacts (of a person with a positive test result) would be infected. For every person ill with Covid, I would reckon about 30 healthy people would be urged to self-isolate unnecessarily.”

Is there any evidence that the U.K. Government’s much-vaunted contact-tracing NHS COVID-19 App, run by NHS Test and Trace, has nevertheless been successful? According to politicians of all parties and medics of many disciplines, the answer is a resounding no.

Referring to the current £37 billion projected cost of Dido Harding’s test and trace operation, Lord Macpherson, who was Permanent Secretary at the Treasury from 2005 to 2016 and worked on 33 Budgets and 20 Spending Reviews, went so far as to say: “This wins the prize for the most wasteful and inept public spending programme of all time.”

To paraphrase Tegnell’s famous commentary on Sweden rejecting a large-scale lockdown of society: “It was as if the world had gone mad about contact-tracing apps, and everything we needed to consider was forgotten. The cases became too many and the political pressure got too strong. And then Sweden stood there rather alone.”