Anders who? WHO has no job for Swedish health agency chief

News conference updating on COVID-19 situation, in Stockholm
State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell of the Public Health Agency speaks during a news conference updating on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) situation, in Stockholm, Sweden, November 3, 2020. Jonas Ekstromer/TT News Agency/via REUTERS

STOCKHOLM, April 20 (Reuters) - Anders Tegnell, the architect of Sweden's light-touch COVID response, will not be joining the World Health Organization despite stepping down as Sweden's chief epidemiologist earlier this year to do so.

The Swedish Public Health Agency announced in March that Tegnell would leave his job and join WHO as a senior expert working with vaccine distribution.

Tegnell, controversial at home and abroad for shunning lockdowns throughout the pandemic, was put forward for the job by the health agency and the Swedish government but it soon emerged that Tegnell's appointment was not a done deal and the new expert group had yet to be finalised.

"The Swedish Public Health Agency has now been informed by the WHO that an agreement has unfortunately not been reached for the intended assignment," the agency said in a statement on Wednesday.

Sweden stood out in the pandemic by opting for mild and voluntary measures, sometimes in sharp contrast to WHO recommendations. Sweden kept schools open while most restaurants, bars and other businesses never closed. Widespread use of masks was never recommended.

More than 18,000 people have died in Sweden from or with COVID-19, many times more per capita than in neighbouring Nordic countries but also fewer than in most European countries that opted for lockdowns.

Reporting by Johan Ahlander; Editing by Nick Macfie

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