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: Sweden took a controversial strategy to combating the coronavirus. That is how Christmas must be saved

Sweden's strategy to fight the pandemic is unique: avoid lockdowns to keep the economy going and encourage herd immunity to the virus.

Pontus Lundahl / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

If Anders Tegnell is right, with a little holiday magic this year, Swedes may be able to swap strict social distancing for a more normal Christmas with family and friends.

The Swedish state epidemiologist told state broadcaster SVT that the country may soon be ready to ease the isolation of elderly people in time for the winter holidays as the country hopes the coronavirus pandemic is under control.

If Sweden relaxes its public health recommendations for older people at high risk for the coronavirus, it would signal another striking step out of a country with a controversial approach to tackling the pandemic.

With the number of coronavirus cases rising by tens of thousands each day in the US and the raging public debate about what restrictions, if any, should be imposed, all eyes are on how Sweden fares. Can this snowy Nordic country save Christmas for its citizens?

Read this: Sweden has not imposed a lockdown, but its economy is as bad as its neighbors

Tegnell says the strict social distancing recommendations for people over 70 are currently under investigation. As long as the trend in Sweden continues to be positive, families and friends should be able to meet up for Christmas, as long as they think it through right and keep some distance.

The epidemiologist said the existing recommendations for elderly and very sick people in nursing homes would remain in place.

Also: Sweden advocated herd immunity while the UK abandoned the idea. Why do both have high COVID-19 death rates?

Sweden's strategy to fight the pandemic is unique: avoid lockdowns to keep the economy going and encourage herd immunity to the virus. Herd immunity is achieved when a large proportion of the population has been infected with the virus, so collective immunity prevents further spread.

Tegnell has also denied the advice of the World Health Organization that people have to wear face masks to prevent the virus from spreading.

Observe: The school returns in Wuhan

Almost 1.4 million students returned to classes in Wuhan, China this week. WSJ's Jonathan Cheng explains how schools reopened in the city where coronavirus first emerged and what is at stake for Beijing if they have to close again. Photo: Aly Song / Reuters

The coronavirus infection rate in Sweden fell below 1,000 cases per day in late June and has been around 150 cases per day this week.

The Swedish approach is controversial as many people have already died and it remains to be seen how effective the pursuit of herd immunity is in the long run.

Continue reading: Sweden is developing herd immunity, say some of the country's experts, but the numbers say otherwise

Currently, 5,832 people have died from the virus in Sweden, which has a population of over 10.2 million. This is comparable to its Scandinavian neighbors Denmark and Norway, which both have about half the Swedish population and a total of 890 deaths.

Sweden has a coronavirus death rate of 57.15 per 100,000, which is the 10th highest in the world according to Johns Hopkins University. Denmark and Norway have a death rate of 10.80 and 4.97 per 100,000, respectively.

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