Just wearing face masks could be “very dangerous,” Sweden’s top infectious disease expert says
For months, we’ve been told to wear face masks and practice social distancing. That seems to be working here in the United States. However, Sweden is one of the few European countries that has not yet recommended the use of face masks after its neighbors: Denmark, Finland, and Norway all changed their positions in the past week.
Today, Anders Tegnell, who is considered the country’s equivalent of Dr. Anthony Fauci from the White House COVID-19 task force, argued that it’s “very dangerous” if people believe the coverings alone will stop the spread of the coronavirus. In an interview with the Financial Times, Anders Tegnell, the chief epidemiologist at Sweden’s Public Health Agency, said:
“It is very dangerous to believe face masks would change the game when it comes to Covid-19.”
The Scandinavian country, renowned for its contrarian approach to handling COVID-19, refused to put the country under some kind of lockdown to combat the spread of the deadly virus and resisted the use of masks for its general population.
Just last month, Dr. Tegnell completely brushed off the idea of wearing masks last month.
“With numbers diminishing very quickly in Sweden, we see no point in wearing a face mask in Sweden, not even on public transport,” he said.
Dr. Tegnell has repeatedly expressed skepticism that face masks will control virus outbreaks. He said that countries with widespread mask compliance, such as Belgium and Spain, were still seeing rising virus rates. To date, the use of face masks in other Nordic countries has been limited. In Norway, for example, face masks “are recommended on rush-hour public transport; in Denmark, they will from Saturday be compulsory on public transport but not elsewhere,” Financial Times said.
“Face masks can be a complement to other things when other things are safely in place,” he said. “But to start with having face masks and then think you can crowd your buses or your shopping malls — that’s definitely a mistake.”