In an interview with Dagens Nyheter, Tegnell said that Sweden unlike “Italy and Spain” was not experiencing a “second wave” of the coronavirus, a claim which the ambassador said “risked giving readers a false picture of the situation in Italy”.
“To call it a second wave is going much too far. But it is a sign of what we have seen for some weeks now, that it is increasing. A second wave implies something bigger, that it covers the whole country, like in Italy and Spain. We have an increase in Stockholm which we should absolutely keep an eye on and take seriously. But it isn't extremely fast and hasn't affected the healthcare sector at all,” Tegnell told the Swedish newspaper.
Italy is currently seeing a rise in cases of coronavirus, as in Sweden, and in both countries the new cases are concentrated in a few regions.
The number of hospitalisations has also begun creeping up but this figure, as well as newly reported deaths, remains low.
In the statement, ambassador Marco Cospito cited the European Centre for Disease Control's reports, which show that over the most recent two weeks, cases per 100,000 inhabitants have reached 45 in Italy, compared to 57.6 in Sweden, 319.3 in Spain and 246 in France. The death toll per 100,000 inhabitants was 0.45 in Italy compared to 0.21 in Sweden, 3.4 in Spain and 1.4 in France.
Cospito added: “Italy does not currently have restrictions that differ significantly from Sweden's (with the exception of the use of face masks for infection prevention purposes) […] I would like to emphasise that hospitals in Italy are not currently experiencing increased pressure as a result of the new spread of infection (most infected people quarantine at home) and that both the government and the health authorities are prepared to act with new measures should the epidemiological situation worsen.”
It's not the first time that the Italian embassy has criticised comments from the state epidemiologist.
In May, Tegnell told Sveriges Radio: “We had really thought that in a modern, wealthy society in Sweden we should be able to protect our elderly. [We thought that] it didn't need to be as it appeared in China, and perhaps even Italy, where they have less resources for this, but that we should as a society be able to manage this better.”
The Local contacted the Public Health Agency at the time for clarification, as the interview did not give further details about where Tegnell believed Italy had fewer resources than Sweden, but we did not receive a response.