STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde on Wednesday hit back at U.S. President Donald Trump’s criticism of the Swedish approach to fighting the spread of the coronavirus, saying he was wrong to claim authorities were trying to achieve “herd immunity”.
Sweden is widely seen as taking a more low-key approach in its attempts to stop the spread of the disease. It’s kept primary and secondary schools open, for example and hasn’t closed its borders or forced people to stay indoors.
Speaking on TV4, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said Trump’s comments were “factually wrong”.
“We do not have a strategy that aims at herd immunity at all,” Linde said.
Herd immunity involves isolating vulnerable groups, but allowing large numbers of the population to become ill and develop immunity to a disease, limiting the need to adopt the kind of drastic lock-downs in place across much of Europe and the rest of the world that have hit economic activity hard.
Linde said that Sweden had adopted a number of tough measures -- closing homes for elderly to visitors and holding higher education classes on line.
“But on the other hand 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.”
At a media conference on Tuesday, Trump said that if the United States had not taken strict social distancing measures, then the country would have suffered more deaths.
“They talk about Sweden, but Sweden is suffering very greatly,” Trump told reporters.
He said that most countries had adopted the same approach as the United States.
“If we didn’t do it that way, we would have lost hundreds of thousands of more people,” Trump said.
Linde also rejected the idea that Sweden had taken a radically different approach to other countries.
“We are doing roughly what most other countries are doing, but we are doing it in a different way. No lock-down and we rely very much on people taking responsibility themselves,” she added.
The Foreign Ministry declined to comment further.
Sweden, with a population of around 10 million, had 7,693 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus as of Wednesday and 591 deaths. The United States, with around 330 million people, had over 400,000 cases and 12,857 deaths.
Reporting by Simon Johnson, editing by Larry King
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