Over the course of the coronavirus crisis, Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s state epidemiologist, the man often seen as the architect of the country’s no-lockdown strategy, has emerged as a polarising figure, winning both praise and scorn.
Swedish state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has been exposed to repeated threats, which have prompted an investigation from the police democracy and hate crime group, the newspaper Aftonbladet reported.
As early as 19 March, Tegnell received an email at his job address, which presented a threatening situation.
“It has come to my knowledge that a constellation of extremely dangerous, highly determined individuals has decided to ‘neutralise’ you”, reads an excerpt from the email.
Subsequently, he received threats at his home address. Threatening messages have also been sent to Tegnell’s relatives, Aftonbladet reported.
“Initially, we worked very actively to find one or more perpetrators if possible. Threats, especially (when addressed) to people in a special position, are something the police take a serious look at,” Kristina Forsgren, Group Manager for the Democracy and Hate Crime Group in the Stockholm police Region, said.
However, over the course of the investigation, police have failed to track down any perpetrator. The failure has been attributed to the fact that they used a temporary email service. All the information was deleted within an hour, the police said. No DNA traces were found on the letter sent to Tegnell.
The state epidemiologist was questioned by police and said that he found the threats disquieting.
“I was not so worried myself, but I take it very seriously when it is directed at my family. It doesn’t feel good at all. It feels a little like a stalker situation,” Tegnell said in a police interview.
Following the repeated threats, Swedish Public Health Agency Director General Johan Carlson emphasised at one of the regular press conferences that although Tegnell plays a significant role in determining Sweden’s strategy, the decisions are not his own.
“Never before has there been such a wave of criticism against individual employees,” Carlson stressed.
Remarkably, Tegnell did not show up for Tuesday’s press conference, and a last-minute change was arranged. Confronted by the media on whether the excessive focus of Tegnell as a person is a problem, Johan Carlson said “No, the problem is people who threaten others with death.”
In Sweden, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, the public face of its no-lockdown strategy, is a polarising figure. While being celebrated as a rock star with memes, t-shirts, tattoos and even a fan club of his own on Facebook, Tegnell has been repeatedly criticised for what is perceived as failure to protect the most vulnerable, including the residents of nurseries and retirement homes, and contradicting messages about herd immunity.
With nearly 34,500 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 4,125 fatalities (the majority of them aged 80 and over), no-lockdown Sweden remains the hardest-hit Scandinavian nation, having more cases that its Nordic peers combined. By contrast, Denmark has witnessed only 11,426 confirmed cases and 563 deaths, whereas Norway has only witnessed 8,383 cases and 236 deaths.