Sweden's COVID infections among highest in Europe, with 'no sign of decrease'

By Johan Ahlander
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - The rate of new COVID-19 infections in Sweden has risen to the second highest in Europe after landlocked San Marino, data showed on Tuesday, when the Scandinavian country, which avoided lockdowns during the pandemic, one before third stood wave of cases.
The number of patients treated in Swedish intensive care units has now risen to the peak of the second wave around the turn of the year. The country has registered 19,105 new cases since Friday, health officials' statistics showed.
Sweden had 625 new cases per million people a day on a seven-day moving average, according to statistics from OurWorldInData on Tuesday, second only to San Marino, a small nation surrounded by Italy.
"Unfortunately we are seeing an increased dispersion in Sweden. We will see how this week develops, but it is definitely a high dispersion and no signs of decline," Swedish chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said at a press conference.
The death toll per million people remained at a relatively low 1.7 daily deaths, below the European average of 4.3 deaths.
"We have increased the prevalence, but also vaccinations that act as an interruption. With these two forces together, we have a relatively even number of deaths," said Tegnell.
The country of 10 million people has fired 2.1 million shots so far.
Sweden recorded 39 new deaths for a total of 13,660. The recorded deaths occurred over several days and sometimes weeks.
The Swedish death rate per capita is many times higher than that of its Nordic neighbors, but lower than most European countries that have opted for lockdowns.
Tegnell also said Sweden will decide in the coming days how to use the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine after reports of rare blood clots similar to those for the AstraZeneca shot were released.
U.S. health officials recommended discontinuing use of the J&J vaccine after six recipients developed a rare blood clot disorder. After the news, J&J said it was delaying the launch of the vaccine in Europe. [L4N2M62S2]
The move comes a week after European regulators said they found a possible link between AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine and a rare blood clotting problem that has resulted in a small number of deaths.
Sweden is expected to receive its first doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine later this week. Use of the AstraZeneca vaccine was suspended in March, but later resumed for those 65 and over.
(Reporting by Johan Ahlander; editing by Simon Johnson, Niklas Pollard and Bernadette Baum)
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