Virologist Annika Linde, who served as state epidemiologist between 2005 and 2013 and was responsible for tackling the swine flu epidemic in 2009, has warned that patients infected with coronavirus can end up “injured for life”.
At the same time, the former professor at Karolinska University, one of Sweden's leading medical institutions, rejected all comparisons with the regular seasonal flu, which kills tens of thousands of people across the globe each year. These comparisons abounded at the outbreak of the novel coronavirus and still occur.
“The flu can crack the old and fragile. They wither away, and often death is completely unproblematic. The virus-driven pneumonia that many Covid-19 patients get is something completely different. It is much more dramatic. These patients die in a completely different way”, Annika Linde told the Expressen newspaper.
The main characteristic of more severe Covid-19 is shortness of breath, which can be highly anxiety-provoking and may devolve into acute pneumonia.
Subsequently, patients may suffer from septic shock followed by multiple organ failure. This is a life-threatening inflammatory reaction as the body's reacts with a massive immune attack, after which several vital organs cease to function properly. In addition, the patient may also suffer from acute respiratory disress syndome, a life-threatening condition when acute tissue damage to the lungs occurs, Linde explained.
“So even if you survive, there is a great risk of being injured for life”, Linde concluded.
72-year-old Linde belongs to a risk group herself, which is why she has been self-isolating for a while now.
“Normally I'm not so hysterical, but this time I follow the advice to the letter. I take walks, but I keep my distance and I'm not doing my shopping rounds, for example. Because you never know”, Linde explained.
Linde condemned senior citizens ignoring the social distancing plea.
“The way I see it, many elderly are gambling, especially while shopping, or they are just mindless”, Linde said, cautioning senior citizens against becoming a nod of infection and urging them to “shape up” and “show solidarity”.
So far, Sweden has been one of the rare countries with comparatively relaxed measures in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic. It has so far abstained from total lockdown measures and has kept schools and cafes open. In its approach rooted in the so-called “Swedish model”, the government has largely relied on citizens' self-moderation and voluntary restrictions.
Earlier this year, Linde suggested that the Public Health Authority's strategy is to allow as many Swedes as possible to be infected without overburdening the healthcare system, in order to obtain herd immunity. This strategy was subsequently denied by state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, but adopted by some Swedish regions.
“The public health authority has chosen the strategy that is perhaps the most sustainable in the long term, to allow dissemination to take place while at the same time protecting the risk groups” Annika Linde told the newspaper Dagens Industri.
According to Linde, there are many indications that the virus will weaken during the summer and then return in the autumn, which has also happened with previous pandemics. In this case, the Public Health Agency's strategy can pay off, Linde suggested.
“If 60 percent of Swedes have become infected by this fall, we would have very little spread compared to the countries that have closed down entirely”, Linde said.
So far, Sweden has seen 10,948 confirmed Covid-19 cases, with 919 fatalities. The death toll in Sweden is much higher than in neighbouring nations, which all have imposed lockdowns (59 in Finland, 285 in Denmark and 134 in Norway.