Coronavirus: Swedish scientist says parts of country could achieve herd immunity in a month

Sweden's Government denies aiming for herd immunity.
Sweden's Government denies aiming for herd immunity. Photo credit: Getty

A Swedish scientist says parts of the country are on track to achieve herd immunity by May despite more than 1000 deaths from COVID-19.

Sweden's top epidemiologist Dr Anders Tegnell says the country's controversial decision not to enforce a quarantine means parts of Stockholm could become largely immune to the virus.

"According to our modellers [at the Public Health Agency of Sweden], we are starting to see so many immune people in the population in Stockholm that it is starting to have an effect on the spread of the infection," Dr Tegnell said.

"Our models point to some time in May."

He then clarified the models are not 100 percent accurate. 

"These are mathematical models, they're only as good as the data we put into them. We will see if they are right."

The country's foreign minister Ann Linde has denied that Sweden is aiming for herd immunity. 

"We do not have a strategy that aims at herd immunity at all," Linde told local media.

Herd immunity means enough of the population have become immune to a disease that it can no longer easily spread between them. 

According to Healthline, it can come into effect when around 40 percent of the population is vaccinated and immune - although in most cases it takes around 90 percent immunity to protect the community. 

Herd immunity relies on vaccinations to be effective. 

Natural herd immunity, which relies on the majority of the population contracting and recovering from the virus,  is less common and doesn't work as well. 

Linde says the government's lack of lockdown has drawn criticism but it has worked. 

"We don't have that total lock-down," she said. 

"That means that some countries think we are not doing anything, but we are doing what is right for Sweden."

Sweden's government has closed universities and banned football games but residents can still shop, eat in restaurants, go to the gym and watch movies in the cinema. Primary and secondary schools have also stayed open.

Sweden currently has 13,822 confirmed cases and 1511 people have died from the virus, reports the Express. 

Tegnall said the death rate did not reflect a failure in Sweden's overall strategy "but it is a failure to protect our elderly who live in care homes".