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Sweden records its highest number of coronavirus deaths in one day with 185

  (News Agencies) Sweden reported a record 185 new coronavirus deaths today, as a top health official defended the country's refusal to go into lockdown. Epidemiologist Anders Wallensten said 'voluntary restrictions' could be 'maintained for a longer period' than the compulsory lockdowns which most of Europe has imposed. People in Sweden accepted the 'reasonable' rules without being forced to obey them, he said, adding that a total lockdown would cause more economic damage. The surge in deaths is likely to be caused by delays in collecting figures from the weekend, a problem which many countries have experienced. The country's public health agency had reported only 29 new deaths last Sunday and 40 yesterday, suggesting a large backlog. The agency now says there were at least 94 deaths over the weekend, but not all the deaths have been attributed to a particular day. Still, today's increase of 185 is the largest yet, even compared to previous post-weekend backlogs, and brings the total from 1,580 to 1,765. The number of cases increased by 545, also a significant jump from yesterday's 392, taking the total number of infections from 14,777 to 15,322. The same delays in reporting were seen over the Easter weekend, when daily updates showed only 49 new deaths from Saturday to Monday. In fact, the agency now attributes at least 242 deaths to those three days, many of which were not revealed until later. Wallensten, the deputy state epidemiologist, today launched the latest defence of a 'voluntary' policy which Sweden says is better in the long term. Sweden has emphasised taking personal responsibility for social distancing measures rather than enforcing a lockdown which cannot last forever. Wallensten also suggested that the peak may already have been reached, despite the impression created by the surge in figures. Health experts believe that by May 1, as many as one-third of people in the Stockholm area may already have had the virus, possibly limiting its spread. Sweden's light touch to the crisis has sparked criticism from some scientists and academics and also caused alarm from some of its European neighbours. Bars, restaurants and schools remain open while public gatherings of up to 50 people are still permissible in Sweden. Sweden has far more deaths than Denmark, Norway and Finland, a difference that is not adequately explained by the size of their populations. Finland has imposed checks on usually free-flowing border traffic at its frontier with Sweden, fearing the spread of the disease. Sweden insists that its strategy is right because people need to 'understand and accept' measures over the long term rather than be forced into obeying them. 'If everyone takes their responsibility, together we will overcome it,' says Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. Officials say that 'people in Sweden have a high level of trust in government agencies', meaning that advisory measures are widely followed. 'In the current situation, people in Sweden are on the whole acting responsibly to reduce the spread of infection by, for example, restricting their social contacts,' the government says. Still, ministers have promised a huge increase in testing so that people in key roles such as police and healthcare personnel can be screened for the virus. 'We are talking about testing and analysis capacity of 50,000, perhaps as many as 100,000, a week,' health minister Lena Hallengren said. So far almost 75,000 people have been tested in Sweden, Hallengren said last week.



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