SWEDEN'S top coronavirus expert says wearing masks is very dangerous and the country will not make it compulsory.
Anders Tegnell is sceptical that face masks will control the spread of Covid-19 because they give the impression that it's safe to be in a crowded room or on public transport.
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Unlike much of Europe, Sweden opted against locking down in March and Mr Tegnell said that infections were rising in countries such as Belgium and Spain where the wearing of face coverings is mandatory.
"It's very dangerous to believe face masks would change the game when it comes to Covid-19," he told the Financial Times.
"Face masks can be a complement to other things when things are safely in place. But to start with having face masks and then think you can crowd your buses or your shopping malls – that's definitely a mistake."
Sweden has resisted making the wearing of masks mandatory as scientists look at the evidence, it's claimed.
Public health agencies have played a "very strong role" and the government has listened to them, unlike politicians in Denmark and Norway who may want to look "strong" and not always take evidence-based decisions, said Jonas Ludvigsson, professor of clinical epidemiology in Stockholm.
Last month, Mr Tegnell said that he saw "no point" in asking people in the country to wear a face mask and has described evidence of their effectiveness as "astonishingly weak".
"When the Swedish health agency says there's no reason to wear face masks , people don't wear face masks," said Prof. Ludvigsson.
"In other countries, where there's less trust and they don't recommend wearing masks, people might just do it anyway."
Despite the conflicting science, the World Health Organization has recommended the wearing of face coverings where there is a risk of widespread community transmission and social distancing is difficult.
The wearing of face masks is mandatory in more than 50 countries.
Face masks were made compulsory on public transport in the UK on June 15. Shoppers must wear them in malls and they must be worn in cinemas and museums.
Sweden recorded its highest tally of deaths in the first half of 2020 for 150 years, according to its national statistics office.
Covid-19 claimed about 4,500 lives in the period to the end of June, a number which has risen to over 5,800 – a much higher percentage of the population in other Nordic nations.
Norway has seen 262 deaths and 334 deaths have been recorded in Finland.
This comes as Mr Tegnell was blasted for appearing to ask whether a higher death rate was a fair price for herd immunity.
Messages sent by Mr Tegnell, and obtained by journalists through freedom of information laws, appear to show him discussing keeping schools open to encourage herd-immunity.
The publication of the emails, which date back five months, has sparked criticism of Sweden's liberal approach to the pandemic.
The country didn't impose a strict lockdown. The government recommended working from home and avoiding public transport but restaurants and bars remained open.
The government has repeatedly described their approach to the pandemic as a "marathon, not a sprint", suggesting that its measures are designed to last in the long-term
In a reported brainstorming session with Finnish scientist Mika Salminen in March, Tegnell said: "One point would be to keep schools open to reach herd immunity faster."
Finland decided against the idea as they believed children would pass on the infection to other age groups.
His modelling showed that closing schools would reduce the spread of the virus by 10 per cent.
Tegnell replied: "10% might be worth it?
Sweden kept schools open during the height of the pandemic for children under the age of 16 and families faced fines if their kids didn't attend.
The scientist has since denied this was done to accelerate herd immunity among the population.
The country's herd immunity strategy appears to have failed.
While officials predicted that 40 per cent of Stockholm's population would have become infected with the bug and acquired antibodies by May, the figure was around 15 per centaccording to a report by University College London.
In April, 17 per cent of people in Stockholm tested for antibodies. This compared with 17 per cent of Londoners tested in April and May, and between 5-10 per cent of people living in Geneva, Switzerland.
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