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Sweden’s controversial top epidemiologist is refusing to recommend face masks, claiming it’s ‘very dangerous to believe face masks would change the game’

2020-08-21 02:37:17

'AStina St Jernkvist/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images

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A woman wears a face mask as she waits at a bus stop on June 26, 2020 in Stockholm, Sweden.

  • Anders Tegnel, who is the chief epidemiologist at Sweden’s Public Health Agency, told the Financial Times: “It is very dangerous to believe face masks would change the game when it comes to COVID-19.”

  • “Face masks can be a complement to other things when other things are safely in place. 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 said.

  • His refusal to recommend masks came despite neighboring countries Denmark, Finland, and Norway all changing their stance on masks in the last week.

  • Despite Tegnel’s resistance, there’s been a growing body of research that’s found face masks do prevent transmission, including an analysis of 42 countries that said mask use was the “key” to controlling the pandemic, Business Insider previously reported.

  • On Tuesday, Sweden’s public health agency said it was looking at proposals for the government, and one option was to at least recommend face masks for specific reasons, like going to the hospital.

  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Sweden’s top epidemiologist is refusing to recommend face masks and says it’s “very dangerous” to rely on them.

Anders Tegnel, the chief epidemiologist at Sweden’s Public Health Agency, told the Financial Times: “It is very dangerous to believe face masks would change the game when it comes to COVID-19.”

“Face masks can be a complement to other things when other things are safely in place. 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 said.

Tegnel, who is seen as the architect behind Sweden’s no-lockdown strategy, backed his assertion by pointing to countries like Spain and Belgium that recommended masks and still had high numbers of COVID-19 cases, according to the Times. 

His refusal to recommend masks came despite neighbouring countries Denmark, Finland, and Norway all changing their stance on masks in the last week.

Norway is recommending them during rush-hour periods on public transport, and Denmark is making them compulsory on public transport.

Despite Tegnel’s resistance, there’s been a growing body of research that found face masks do prevent transmission, including an analysis of 42 countries that said mask use was the “key” to controlling the pandemic, Business Insider previously reported.

Karolinska Institute professor of clinical epidemiology Jonas Ludvigsson told the Times one of the reasons Sweden has not embraced masks was that most people trusted the authorities, compared to other countries where people might ignore advice and wear masks regardless.

“When the Swedish health agency says there’s no reason to wear face masks, people don’t wear face masks,” he said. 

On Tuesday, Sweden’s public health agency said it was looking at proposals for the government going forward, and one option it could consider was recommending face masks for specific reasons, like going to the hospital.

Earlier in the month, Tegnel also claimed that up to 30% of Sweden’s population could have been immune from COVID-19, but his claim wasn’t backed by data, Business Insider previously reported.

As of August 20, Sweden had 85,411 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 5,802 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Read the original article on Business Insider


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