Sweden’s top infectious disease expert warned that masks alone aren’t the solution to addressing the novel coronavirus that some believe it to be.
As the Financial Times reported, the Scandinavian country has approached the pandemic in a different way than neighboring Norway, Denmark, and Finland. For instance, the other Nordic countries have contrasted with Sweden’s approach when it comes to wearing masks.
State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, who is seen the equivalent of America’s Dr. Anthony Fauci, has been vocal against relying on facial coverings to limit the virus’ spread.
“It is very dangerous to believe face masks would change the game when it comes to COVID-19,” he said.
While he believes that masks can be used as part of a larger strategy, it shouldn’t be considered a solution in itself.
“Face masks can be a complement to other things when other things are safely in place,” he said. “But to start with having face masks and then think you can crowd your buses or your shopping malls — that’s definitely a mistake.”
He pointed to countries like Spain and Belgium, where there has been an increase in infections despite the widespread use of facial coverings. That said, Sweden might begin requiring masks in places like hospitals or dental offices, though they are still in conversations about any such proposal.
While other Nordic countries require coverings while riding on public transport, Sweden doesn’t see the need, as the New York Post reported.
“With numbers diminishing very quickly in Sweden, we see no point in wearing a mask in Sweden, not even on public transport.”
Tegnell said that the evidence behind the idea of wearing a facemask is “astonishingly weak.”
“I’m surprised that we don’t have more or better studies showing what effect masks actually have,” he remarked.
Tegnell has been called stubborn for his stance against masking up, but other officials argue that the government health agency in Sweden is respected and listened to by politicians and the public at large. This has allowed the country to take a different approach that nations that are led by politicians who are less likely to take the advice of health experts.
Sweden has made headlines around the world for its approach to the pandemic, where it refused to lock down unlike many other nations.
As a result, the country has faced a higher per capita death rate, particularly among older people, though some argue that they are also closer to approaching herd immunity.