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Spike in COVID-19 cases seen among Sweden's elderly population

Published : 03 Apr 2020, 23:11

  DF-Xinhua Report

File Photo Xinhua.

The number of elderly people contracting COVID-19 in Sweden has increased dramatically, as the country reported 6,078 cases of COVID-19 in total Friday afternoon.

The latest figures showed that 233 out of the 333 dead were between 70 and 90 years old. And a total of 469 people were admitted to intensive care between Thursday and Friday alone.

"We are seeing a continuing increase in cases and the situation is particularly serious in Stockholm," said Anders Wallensten, deputy state epidemiologist, at the Public Health Agency's daily press briefing on Friday.

His statement came a day after the Swedish news agency TT revealed that 94 of Sweden's 290 local municipalities have reported confirmed or suspected coronavirus cases in local elderly care homes. Swedish Radio also reported that one in three care home facilities in Stockholm has had coronavirus cases.

"We are worried about the elderly, who stand for half of all cases right now. We are getting signals, primarily from Stockholm but also from other parts of the country, that the virus is getting into elderly care homes and that is very unfortunate because it has a high impact on the mortality rate and puts intensive care facilities under pressure," state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told Swedish Television.

Earlier this week, the Swedish government imposed a ban on outside visitors at nursing homes, in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus in the elderly population.

"We have unfortunately reached a new level, where we've seen between 400 and 500 new cases per day for a few days in a row," said Tegnell.

The number of fatalities is also increasing, with the rate now between 25 and 30 per day, according to Tegnell, who also pointed out that there has been a lag in the reporting of deaths. Therefore, a new procedure is now in place according to which the number of COVID-19 diagnoses is being checked against the death register and the regional councils are being asked to control whether the cause of death among the deceased was the coronavirus.

The Public Health Agency did not announce any new restrictions on the freedom of movement or social interactions on Friday. According to Wallensten, it is hard to determine what impact various measures taken in different countries can have on containing the spread of the virus.

"But most countries are seeing an increase. Countries that have taken forceful measures are also having a hard time stemming contagion," said Wallensten.

Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare said on Friday that two thirds of Sweden's intensive care beds are now occupied but that authorities are working hard on increasing the capacity to treat patients, including at a makeshift field hospital set up in Stockholmsmassan, a large exhibition facility in the Nordic region. The field hospital will start receiving patients this weekend.