HEALTHOPINION

Anders Tegnell: The rise and fall of an emperor with no clothes in Sweden

By Keith Begg

From spring through to early autumn international media coverage of Sweden`s handling of the COVID-19 crisis ebbed from lukewarm to apathetic. A mixture of praise and condemnation focused on rising and falling case and death rates, tragedy versus success, and the merits of suppression versus mitigation. Many journalists and influencers sitting in their cosy offices in New York, London, and Paris once lauded the success of the Swedish strategy, without any real investigation. International media rarely questioned Swedish media sources nor the Swedish Public Health Authority`s (FHM) questionable claims around the perceived COVID-19 miracle in Sweden.

In the middle of the pandemic, Swedish media received a government bailout to the tune of 700 million SEK or approximately 70 million Euro. This was at a time when front-line workers were denied oral protection as Anders Tegnell did not think it was necessary, and most elderly care homes were devoid of oxygen supplies. As the chief architect of Sweden`s COVID-19 response, he has largely avoided national and international scrutiny for his costly mistakes. The question firmly on many people`s minds is how did Tegnell ascend the throne in pandemic Sweden?

Tegnell the Swedish State Epidemiologist lacks a doctorate in epidemiology. He does not conduct his own research on the subject nor has he been the lead author of an expert-reviewed scientific article since 2009 (before that in 2004) according to Google Scholar. His formal education in epidemiology consists of a one-year long-distance learning course at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine which he completed over four years.

Otherwise, he is a doctor. He often speaks eloquently to the media but seldom refers to scientific studies that others can review when referring to his questionable claims. He has used untruths on recurring occasions, including reports on Sweden`s compliance with infection control councils and the spread of infection in Swedish and Finnish schools. He seldom speaks concretely, but almost always vaguely and airily. Tegnell has been presented with an exceptionally large authority by the Swedish public and the government in an area that he does not control. Many Swedes follow his statements by saying that they “trust the research” or that “they listen to the researchers”.

Tegnell is not a researcher. He is an official who defended a dissertation on the risk of infection during heart surgery. To equate Anders Tegnell with researchers is to reveal how little is known about the research world, as well as the research process; this constant search, reconsideration, and listening to the criticism of others. Sticking to a thesis formulated in early March when the research situation on Sars-CoV-2 snowballed in terms of new expertise, Tegnell`s theories and assumptions are the complete antitheses of a scientific researcher’s approach.

Even in early March as many countries scrambled to prepare for the onslaught of an unknown pandemic, Tegnell’s theories and assumptions started to unravel. It became abundantly clear just how out of his depth he was and how extraordinarily little science was involved when calculating his responses.

On March 4 on Sverige Radio, a confident Tegnell announced when there were only 35 reported cases of COVID-19 in Sweden that

“(It) is quite a lot compared to what we have had before but compared to all the people that have gone to Italy, the chance for individuals to get it, is still very very low. All cases in Sweden have mild symptoms of the disease. The public health agency believes they have so far broken the chain of transmission from all cases in Sweden” — Interview in English.

In the space of three weeks, most of his assumptions about COVID-19 and its potential impact on Sweden were proven incorrect and started to come unstuck. But his popularity grew and grew as did his perseverance.  Valuable time was lost in preparing Sweden for a deadly pandemic but Tegnell`s un-scientific assumptions and theories continued to prevail. And international media lapped up his theories, treating his statements as fact, with a smidgeon of wishful thinking, that there was indeed an alternative way to tackle this deadly virus.

Even in late February, as the pandemic began to take a stranglehold in Italy, Tegnell`s first response was that the Corona Virus would not come to Sweden. When COVID-19 hit the shores of Sweden he quickly responded by stating that there was a limited number of cases, the majority of which had come from abroad. He boasted to media outlets that there was no community spread in Sweden. But again, the pendulum swung precariously back and forth until it swung completely against him as community spread was identified in Stockholm, Sörmland, and Östra Götaland. Again, Tegnell was ready with an implausible response; that it was confined to these three areas. Within a matter of days Tegnell had to capitulate that there was community spread in all but a handful of sparsely populated regions in Sweden.

Up until May, Sweden had one of the lowest testing rates in the OECD, and no tracing, tracking, or quarantine measures, so the virus was essentially allowed to spread throughout the country relatively unchecked. One of the most pervasive qualities of Tegnell throughout the handling of the pandemic is his arrogance and disregard to even consider the most meritorious of scientists and research institutions.

In an article published Svenska Dagbladet, dated March 30, Tegnell made an announcement that the FHM

no longer recommends that healthcare professionals use oral or arm protection in contact with corona patients”.

This gamble proved costly. At the end of April, a young Nurse Marielle DeBruhl (39) tragically lost her life to COVID-19 as she worked on the front lines caring for corona-infected patients without PPE. International media and influencers have largely failed to cover the ethical and moral bankruptcy of the Swedish strategy focusing primarily on the socio-economic and political angles of Sweden`s handling of the pandemic. Thousands of elderly have been neglected and most have been denied access to health care. Most troubling of all is many seniors have been handed out death sentences in the form of a shot of morphine, left to die alone in their care homes, often on instruction from a medical expert over the phone. Neither patient nor family were ever consulted.

“78-year-old covid-19 sick mother Rita Hemsen was de-prioritized by care with reference to lack of space at a hospital in Gavle. A doctor does not see Rita but makes all the decisions over the phone. The relatives call repeatedly and demand that Rita be sent to hospital and get a drip and checked by a doctor. Instead, Rita Hemsen was given morphine and palliative care. Six days later she died. Her medical record states that Rita was given priority, in favour of other patients. And that the reason for her demise and death was due to a lack of intensive care units. But an expose by Sweden`s mainstream news channel TV4 Nyheter revealed that there were plenty of care places available in  ICU.

Lili Sedghi`s father was euthanized with morphine, a breathing inhibitor, and tantamount to a death sentence. He never received Oxygen and his family were not advised of the treatment he received until after his death. Unlike Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland euthanasia is illegal in Sweden.

Thousands of sick people in Sweden have been denied care on the grounds of age and underlying conditions. In fact, younger people have also been denied care and told to stay at home even though many were gravely sick. Throughout the spring and into the summer Tegnell boasted to the world`s media that Sweden`s health system never buckled under the pressure of COVID-19 but the reality was that only the lucky few had access to the health system.

In a report published by Novus Coronastatus  it is estimated that up to 150,000 Swedes have developed long-term health complications as a result of COVID-19.

“40% of those who are ill now have been ill with the same disease for over 10 weeks. If you then exclude those who state that they do not have Covid-like symptoms, about every third (32%) who are ill now have been ill for over 10 weeks and have Covid-like symptoms. This corresponds to about 150,000 Swedes who today have a disease that has been going on for more than 10 weeks and have symptoms that can be associated with Covid-19”.

In June as the eyes of the world were firmly focused on the Swedish COVID-19 model, Tegnell continued to gaslight international media regarding the capabilities of the Swedish health care system to defend itself against a deadly virus. But, in  an article published by Dägens Nyheter on 22 June,  Chief Physician Michael Broomé at the Ecmo Center at Karolinska opened up about the reality at one of Sweden`s largest hospitals

“The regional management in Stockholm claims that patients have been given priority during the pandemic. That is a lie”,

Instead of admitting mistakes, Tegnell the architect of Sweden`s COVID-19 response has engaged in a propaganda campaign to blame every other possibility for the failure of the strategy. Tegnell, reverted to blaming the flu season as one of the reasons as to why there were so many deaths in Sweden during the spring even though the death rate in Sweden is currently nine times that of Finland and 11 times the rate in Norway.

So, what scientific evidence did Tegnell refer to, to back up these frivolous claims that it was indeed the flu season that led to so many deaths? Did he liaise with the crème de la crème of Harvard or consult up to the minute reports from the W.H.O or ECDC? No. He referred to a YouTube video by Ivor Cummins who has a degree in Biochemical Engineering with no experience in the complicated field of epidemiology as evidence to substantiate his theories. His desperation has become tangible as he grasps at any nettle to convince the world that he is not responsible for all the deaths in Sweden.

In early autumn Tegnell was asked why Finland has been the best of the Nordic countries in protecting the population. He thinks it is partly due to immigration. Finland was the first country in the Nordics to record a case of COVID-19

“On the one hand, I think they had minimal imports, very few who travelled. On the other hand, they have almost no immigrant groups that were hit hard in Sweden and in other countries.” says Anders Tegnell.

He has regularly pointed the finger of blame at the migrant population of Sweden without ever producing a socio-economic report to justify his claims. It is also abundantly clear that hundreds of thousands of largely white, privileged, middle class Swedes travelled to the Alps and brought the virus back to Sweden with them. Tegnell thought it logistically impossible to test, track, trace, and quarantine all the returnees. This is a situation that still largely prevails in Sweden today. Nothing about how discriminatory structures and social stratification entails such things as lower socio-economic standards, overcrowding, and poorer health. Nothing about inequality creating these conditions. Does he mean that Sweden is more unequal than Finland?

These unsubstantiated claims provide more questions than answers. Are “immigrant groups” predestined to be infected wherever they are? If a country has large immigrant groups, is the risk of infection higher? This is a very unpleasant logic but has been used by Tegnell on several occasions to divert the blame away from the real culprits.

His incompetence is apparent to most foreign residents living in Sweden. He has stressed to the world that herd-immunity was never part of his strategy. But in procured emails dating back to March, it was clear that this was very much his modus operandi. In the most sinister way possible his idea was to use children as pawns to quickly spread the virus to speed up immunity in the population. And the evidence keeps mounting.

Tegnell has been able to avoid scientific debates both in Sweden and abroad and so continues to peddle his pseudo-science on an individual level to media outlets and influencers. Because of the apathy of many media outlets abroad who have the resources to turn the spotlight on his spurious claims and theories, Tegnell remains largely unchallenged and elusive. Unless his incompetence and negligence are exposed to the wider world and journalists and influencers take time to challenge his distortion and contradictions he will still be viewed as an Emperor by the left in Sweden and a saviour by the right in many parts of the world.

Keith Begg is the founder of Media Watchdogs of Sweden (MEWAS)
*Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of Foreign Policy News. 

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Foreign Policy News

Foreign Policy News is a self-financed initiative providing a venue and forum for political analysts and experts to disseminate analysis of major political and business-related events in the world, shed light on particulars of U.S. foreign policy from the perspective of foreign media and present alternative overview on current events affecting the international relations.

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