How comeback kid Sweden got the last laugh on coronavirus

While coronavirus cases rebound across Europe, Sweden is enjoying record low numbers of infections and deaths despite months of scepticism about its lockdown-free strategy.

Sweden's infection rate - once the highest in Europe - is now lower than in Britain, Spain, France or , as well as Norway and Denmark where leaders have long been alarmed by their neighbour's high death rate. 

Sweden last week carried out a record number of tests but only 1.2 per cent of them came back positive, the lowest level since the start of the pandemic.  

The Swedish comeback has now led Britain to remove the country from its quarantine list, opening the door to tourism in an economy which has already suffered a milder downturn than much of Europe.  

Sweden has flattened the curve without ordering its people to stay inside - keeping shops, schools and restaurants open even at the height of the pandemic and trusting Swedes to combat the virus by washing their hands and abiding by social distancing rules. 

The Nordic country's top epidemiologist has also played down the effectiveness of face masks and insisted that a full-scale lockdown would not have prevented care home deaths.  

Sweden, in brown, once had the worst infection rate in Europe measured by cases per million people - but while cases have surged in Spain and France and risen in Britain, Germany and , Sweden's infection rate has fallen to an all-time low 

In the spring and summer, Sweden's infection rate (in red) was far higher than that of its Nordic neighbours - but the numbers are now similar with Norway and Denmark both having more cases per million over the last seven days 

Sweden's infection rate was the highest in Europe as recently as mid-June, when increased screening led to more than 1,000 people testing positive per day. 

On June 15, Sweden had a 7-day average of 101 cases per million people per day, while the next-highest in Europe was Belarus with 79. 

In Western Europe, the next-highest was Portugal on 30 cases per million, while Sweden's neighbours were far lower: Denmark six, Finland three, Norway two. 

In addition, Sweden has piled up more deaths than Norway, Denmark and Finland put together, with 5,843 fatalities in total, despite its population being only twice as large as those countries. 

The Swedish figures prompted concern and its strategy led to criticism at home and abroad, with many countries leaving Sweden off their lists of approved travel destinations when they resumed tourism. 

Sweden was indignant when its Scandinavian neighbour Finland excluded it from an easing of travel restrictions in Baltic and Nordic countries. 

Britain also left Sweden out of its 'travel corridor' list because its infection rate was still too high, while the Swedish prime minister announced an inquiry into the country's handling of the disease. 

However, the situation has totally reversed in three months since then, with infections surging in much of Europe but reaching record low levels in Sweden. 

Sweden announced only 7,131 new cases in the month of August, down from 11,971 in July and a far higher figure of 30,909 in June. 

By contrast, cases quadrupled from July to August in Spain and France, and more than doubled in Germany and , while Britain this week tightened restrictions after a rise in cases. 

Sweden is currently averaging around 200 new cases per day, compared to more than 1,000 at the height of the pandemic, while the rate of positive tests last week was the lowest since the crisis began

Sweden is currently averaging around 200 new cases per day, compared to more than 1,000 at the height of the pandemic, while the rate of positive tests last week was the lowest since the crisis began 

Deaths have fallen to an average of less than two per day after just 11 fatalities in the last week, compared to hundreds of deaths per week at the height of the pandemic in the spring

Deaths have fallen to an average of less than two per day after just 11 fatalities in the last week, compared to hundreds of deaths per week at the height of the pandemic in the spring  

The highest infection rates in Western Europe are now in Spain (200 cases per million) and France (118), while Britain is on 37 with Sweden well below them on 17.

Sweden's current figure is lower than in Norway (19) and Denmark (38), with Finland the lowest of the four mainland Nordic countries on seven cases per million. 

Schools re-opened in Sweden mid-August and health officials say they do not expect a large resurgence of the virus in the coming weeks.  

On Tuesday, Sweden announced that it had carried out a record number of tests last week with only 1.2 per cent coming back positive - the lowest rate since the crisis began. 

At the peak of the crisis in the spring, 19 per cent of of tests - nearly one in five - were coming back positive in some weeks.  

'The purpose of our approach is for people themselves to understand the need to follow the recommendations and guidelines that exist,' health agency chief Johan Carlson told a news conference. 

'There are no other tricks before there are available medical measures, primarily vaccines. The Swedish population has taken this to heart,' he

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