Sweden reports record daily number of COVID-19 deaths, but infection rate may have peaked

FILE PHOTO: Passengers wearing protective masks enter an underground railway station, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Stockholm, Sweden, January 7, 2021. Jessica Gow/TT News Agency/via REUTERS

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden, whose unorthodox pandemic strategy placed it in the global spotlight, reported a record number of COVID-19 deaths for a single day on Thursday, taking the total toll above 10,000, although new infections appear to be easing.

The country of 10 million inhabitants registered 351 more deaths since Wednesday, statistics from the Public Health Agency showed, and reported 6,580 new coronavirus cases, with the daily number trending lower since late December.

Some 10,185 people have now died in Sweden from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, it said.

The latest number of deaths are likely to have occurred over several days and weeks, with many from the Christmas period being registered with a significant delay.

Public Health Agency official Karin Tegmark Wisell told a news conference that while the number of new cases showed some signs of having plateaued, the death toll would continue to mount.

“We sadly expect that the increase will continue given the high level of contagion in the country,” she said.

Authorities said that the situation was still strained in the healthcare system around the country with a few exceptions where there has been an improvement.

Around 20% of available intensive care beds are free, though the situation varies in different regions.

The death rate per capita in Sweden, which avoided harsh lockdowns, is several times higher than that of its Nordic neighbours but lower than several European countries that opted for lockdowns.

Reporting by Simon Johnson and Niklas Pollard; editing by Johannes Hellstrom and Susan Fenton