Allow ‘controlled spread’ of coronavirus among under-60s, Swedish expert to tell Ireland

Nordic nation’s ex-chief epidemiologist to warn against holding out for Covid vaccine

Dublin coronavirus
A couple pass a boarded-up pub in Dublin during Ireland’s lockdown
(Image credit: Paul Faith/AFP via Getty Images)

The Irish government will be advised today to allow coronavirus to spread through the country’s younger population as part of a push to control community infections.

Sweden’s former chief epidemiologist Dr Johan Giesecke will tell the Dail’s Covid-19 Committee that the virus should be allowed to “spread through the population alongside a programme that concentrates on the ‘old and frail’”, The Irish Times reports.

Giesecke will also advise that staff and residents of care homes are tested regularly - and urge the government “not to build its Covid-19 strategy around the imminent advent of a vaccine”, the paper adds.

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“We might have to wait for it and it may not be very effective in those who need it most,” the ex-health chief is expected to say.

Eyebrows were raised over Sweden’s lockdown-free response to the pandemic, but “evidence is mounting that Sweden has beaten the coronavirus epidemic with herd immunity rather than lockdowns”, says The Times.

After recording high levels of Covid cases and related deaths in the early days of the pandemic, Sweden’s infection rate is now remaining “low and stable at a time when other European countries are facing a strong resurgence”, the paper continues.

Kim Sneppen, professor of biocomplexity at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, told Danish newspaper Politiken that “there is some evidence that the Swedes have built up a degree of immunity to the virus which, along with what else they are doing to stop the spread, is enough to control the disease”.

But Giesecke’s advice to test in care homes will have to be heeded if Ireland is to follow in Sweden’s footsteps. As The Local reported back in July, “almost half of Sweden’s deaths with the coronavirus in the first half of the year occurred in elderly care homes”.

Ireland has so far recorded 33,444 cases and 1,792 deaths from Covid-19, according to latest figures, compared with Sweden’s 89,436 cases and 5,870 fatalities.

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Joe Evans is the world news editor at He joined the team in 2019 and held roles including deputy news editor and acting news editor before moving into his current position in early 2021. He is a regular panellist on The Week Unwrapped podcast, discussing politics and foreign affairs. 

Before joining The Week, he worked as a freelance journalist covering the UK and Ireland for German newspapers and magazines. A series of features on Brexit and the Irish border got him nominated for the Hostwriter Prize in 2019. Prior to settling down in London, he lived and worked in Cambodia, where he ran communications for a non-governmental organisation and worked as a journalist covering Southeast Asia. He has a master’s degree in journalism from City, University of London, and before that studied English Literature at the University of Manchester.