STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Swedish health officials warned on Friday of worrying local outbreaks of the COVID delta variant and urged people to get vaccinated to avoid a fourth wave of the pandemic.
Sweden, an outlier in the fight against the pandemic with its no-lockdown policy, has seen a steep decline in cases and hospitalisations in the past month after surges in infections in the spring.
Close to half the adult population has received at least one vaccine shot but the health agency warned that people who had only received one shot were less protected against the delta variant.
“There are some dark clouds on the horizon and I think mainly of outbreaks of the delta variant. It is found in Europe and also locally in Sweden,” agency director general Johan Carlson told a news conference.
The Delta variant, first identified in India, is believed by UK epidemiologists to be 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant which was previously dominant in Britain, in part because vaccines are less effective against it.
So far, only 71 cases of the variant have been confirmed in Sweden but it has prompted the agency to step up contact tracing. The delta variant accounts for around 90% of new cases in the UK.
On Thursday, Sweden reported 831 new cases and three deaths. The total death toll of more than 14,500 has been higher than in other Nordic countries but lower than in most European countries that opted for lockdowns.
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