Anders Tegnell
Anders Tegnell Reuters

Annika Linde, the epidemiologist who oversaw Sweden's response to both swine flu and SARS, slammed the country's response to COVID-19.

Previously, Linde, who served as state epidemiologist between 2005-2013, had supported Anders Tegnell's approach. However, with the number of dead reaching nearly 4,000 and one of the highest per capita death rates in the world, she has turned critical.

"I think that we needed more time for preparedness," she told the Observer. "If we had shut down very early ... we would have been able, during that time, to make sure that we had what was necessary to protect the vulnerable."

She also said that even though she had previously supported Tegnell's approach, she now believes it was faulty.

"The basic perception was, I think, that sooner or later, irrespective of what you do, you will have the whole population infected," she said, adding: "When Anders Tegnell said 'we will flatten the curve, and we will protect the vulnerable,' I thought 'we will reach herd immunity after a while. It could be a good strategy.' I wasn’t that critical."

"This was like a dream, that we could protect the elderly - with very little basis in reality."

Speaking on Sweden's national radio station, Tegnell as well admitted that Sweden is in a "terrible situation," but added, "it's very common to come up with that criticism, and say 'if we had locked down, we could have done so much more before.' But when I ask the question, 'what, exactly, could we have done which would have changed so much?' then I don’t get so many answers."