Staff at Swedish Health Agency Get Police Protection as Threats Increase

By Reuters Staff

February 19, 2021

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Some employees of Sweden's Public Health Agency, which shaped the country's response to the coronavirus pandemic, have been given police protection after an increase in threats against them, the head of the agency said on Thursday.

Sweden's response to the virus, which has caused more than 2 million deaths worldwide, has differed from that of many other nations, relying more on voluntary social distancing than strict lockdowns.

Sweden has suffered more than 12,500 deaths, a per capita figure many times higher than its Nordic neighbours, but lower than several European countries that opted for lockdowns.

The high mortality rate has sparked a fierce debate about whether authorities should have taken tougher measures, with the agency and its chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, at the centre of the storm.

"It has gone so far that we have death threats that are being investigated by the police," agency head Johan Carlson said in an interview with news agency TT.

"It started in spring and then, just as now, much of it is aimed at our spokespeople. But it has increased and we experience it daily. We have staff who have been given police protection."

Carlson gave no further details and was not immediately available for comment.

Tegnell told Reuters in an interview last June that he had received death threats.

Police have been told of the most serious threats, including those against families of agency employees, and the agency has beefed up security at its offices, Carlson said.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said the threats "filled him with anger".

He said, "A line has been crossed when people who are doing their jobs and doing their best to protect lives .. during a pandemic are subject to this."