State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell of the Public Health Agency of Sweden speaks during a news conference on July 30, 2020 in Stockholm.
  • Sweden's decision to avoid a full coronavirus lockdown has been followed by its highest death toll since a famine swept the country 150 years ago.
  • There were 51,405 deaths in the country in the first half of this calendar year.
  • This is the biggest 6-month death toll the country has recorded since 1869.
  • Unlike most countries, Sweden did not impose strict lockdown measures in response to the coronavirus.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Sweden has recorded its highest death toll in any six-month period in the past 150 years, after refusing to implement a full coronavirus lockdown.

Sweden recorded 51,405 deaths in the period between January and June, according to Statistics Office figures reported by Reuters.

This was its highest death toll since 1869 when the country was dealing with a famine that started two years earlier. 55,431 Swedes died in that year.

Sweden's overall death toll was 10% higher than the average over the last five years, Reuters reported. There was a spike in April when deaths were 40% higher than the average.

Sweden's coronavirus response has attracted global attention as unlike in most countries, its government did not implement strict lockdown measures in response to the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus. Instead, it allowed shops, bars, and restaurants to remain largely open and students to attend school.

Sweden's state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, who is widely credited as the architect of the country's response to the pandemic, justified Sweden's response by saying countries that imposed strict lockdowns would most likely suffer large second waves later in the year, whereas Sweden's would be smaller.

Tegnell suggested that by opting against a strict lockdown, Sweden would be able to achieve herd immunity — the contentious theory that a population will become immune to the coronavirus when at least 60% of people catch it.

In April, he predicted that by May 40% of people in Sweden's capital Stockholm would have developed coronavirus antibodies which could potentially contribute towards Covid-19 immunity — though there is currently insufficient evidence that antibodies provide long-term immunity to the virus. A recent study carried out by University College London estimated that a significantly smaller percentage of people in Stockholm — 17% — had developed antibodies by around this time.

5,802 people in Sweden had died after catching the coronavirus as of Thursday morning.

This is significantly higher compared to Sweden's Nordic neighbours. Norway's death toll was 262 as of Thursday, while in Finland it was 334. It is also one of the world's worst-affected countries in terms of deaths per population.

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