Sweden records its highest number of COVID-19 new cases

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Sweden’s top coronavirus official has questioned the scientific basis of other EU countries’ strict coronavirus lockdowns, as Germany said its number of cases needed to fall from about 2,000 to a few hundred a day before it could ease restrictions further, writes Jon Henley, the Guardian’s Europe correspondent.

As several European countries continued to cautiously lift their lockdowns, sending children back to school and reopening some shops and businesses, Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, said the original measures looked difficult to justify.

Sweden has favoured civic responsibility over mandatory rules, closing senior high schools and banning gatherings of more than 50 people, but asking rather than ordering people to avoid non-essential travel, work from home and stay indoors if they are over 70 or feeling ill. Shops, restaurants and junior schools have stayed open.

Polls show many Swedes support and are complying with the policy, which has been heavily criticised by some senior members of the country’s scientific community. The country has also recorded 2,150 deaths – giving it a per-million total much lower than Italy’s and Spain’s, but many times higher than those of its Nordic neighbours.