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Sweden has recorded the highest number of coronavirus deaths per capita in Europe over the past week, it has been revealed.
Data collected by Ourworldinsata.org showed that the Scandinavian nation, which has been criticised for its relaxed lockdown rules, had 6.25 deaths per million inhabitants per day between 12 and 19 May.
That figure was the highest in Europe and just above the UK, which had 5.75 deaths per million.
Rather than declaring a full lockdown, Sweden has adopted a mix of legislation and recommendations in response to the virus that foreign leaders and media have claimed is too soft in its approach.
Despite its high death rate over the past week, Sweden is still far behind the UK, Italy and Spain in terms of overall death toll.
However, it is also much higher than Nordic neighbours Denmark, Norway and Finland.
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The current Swedish strategy is based on voluntary measures regarding social distancing and basic hygiene, and is seen to rely on “herd immunity” – making sure as many people as possible develop antibodies to fight coronavirus.
Some have criticised it as a dangerous experiment with peoples lives but the strategy has also been put forward as a future model by the WHO.
The country’s prime minister insisted on Friday last week that Sweden had not adopted a "business as usual" approach to the coronavirus.
Stefan Lofven rejected that narrative, saying: "The image that Sweden is doing so totally different than other countries. That's not the case."
He said that the Swedish model for managing society was built on trust between citizens – who had "a responsibility to do the right thing" – and lawmakers and other authorities.
"Life is not carrying on as normal in Sweden. It is not business as usual."
Sweden, whose population is around twice that of other Nordic countries, has no plans currently to ease its coronavirus regime, Lofven said.
"This fight against COVID-19 is a marathon and the measures have therefore been chosen because we strongly believe they are viable for the long haul," he said.
While there was "no one-size-fits-all response" to the pandemic, he said better co-operation was needed as countries started to ease lockdown curbs.
"Strong EU co-operation is key now to fighting the crisis, to handling the health issues and the economic consequences. The global response also needs to be stronger," he said.