At a time when a major part of Europe remains in coronavirus lockdown, Sweden bucked the global trend by imposing minimum restriction on public activities. The Swedish government’s decision to keep schools and businesses open during the COVID-19 crisis has been criticised by some. But as the number of infections and deaths show signs of stabilising in badly hit Stockholm, the capital city and most populous urban area of Sweden, authorities are maintaining earlier strategies of imposing minimum restrictions on movement.

Now the strategy has got a stamp of approval from the country’s chief epidemiologist, who believes that the idea seems to be working and that “herd immunity” could be reached in Stockholm in few weeks.

“In major parts of Sweden, around Stockholm, we have reached a plateau (in new cases) and we’re already seeing the effect of herd immunity and in a few weeks’ time we’ll see even more of the effects of that. And in the rest of the country, the situation is stable,” CNBC quoted Dr Anders Tegnell, chief epidemiologist at Sweden’s Public Health Agency, as saying.

What is herd immunity?

Herd immunity is also called community immunity and herd or group protection. It occurs when a 60 per cent of the community is deemed immune to a disease (through vaccination and/or prior illness), making the spread of this disease from person to person unlikely. This can happen when many people contract the disease and in time build up an immune response to it (natural immunity). It may also occur many people are vaccinated against the disease to achieve immunity.

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Since no vaccine has been developed so far to protect the human body against the COVID-19, the population will have to develop resistance against coronavirus in a natural way, i.e through herd immunity.

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Sweden stands at 16,004, which is more than double in neighboring Denmark (8,108 cases, 370 deaths) and Finland (4,000 cases, 141 deaths) that imposed strict lockdown measures. The figure includes 13,517 active cases, 550 cured or discharged patients, and 1,937 deaths.

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By Chitranjan Kumar

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