Sweden has slammed the World Health Organisation (WHO) for including it in a list of those countries at risk of a crippling coronavirus surge, saying the world health body has made a "total mistake".

The WHO has listed Sweden among 11 countries seeing "accelerated transmission" which it says "if left unchecked will push health systems to the brink once again".

But controversial Swedish state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell retaliated, lashing out at the WHO's "total misinterpretation" of Sweden's virus data.

Sweden's state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has angrily slammed the WHO saying its inclusion on a virus risk list is a 'total mistake'. Photo / AP
Sweden's state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has angrily slammed the WHO saying its inclusion on a virus risk list is a 'total mistake'. Photo / AP

Sweden has made headlines for its high death toll relative to its Nordic neighbours after it adopted Tegnell's "herd immunity" policy and did not introduce strict lockdowns.

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Tegnell said the UN body had made a "total mistake" by listing Sweden alongside countries like Armenia, Albania, Kazakhstan and Ukraine and other mostly poorer nations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

"We have an increase in cases because we have begun testing much more in Sweden the past week," Tegnell said, adding that "all the other parameters" showed the number of serious cases was falling.

Sweden is being closely watched as many other countries are gradually opening up their economies from stricter lockdowns. Photo / Bloomberg
Sweden is being closely watched as many other countries are gradually opening up their economies from stricter lockdowns. Photo / Bloomberg

Some 5,230 people have died from COVID-19 in Sweden, the world's fifth-highest per capita death rate.

Sweden's coronavirus fatalities are higher than other Scandinavian countries which all imposed much stricter lockdown measures to combat the pandemic.

According to Sweden's Public Health Agency, around 10 coronavirus patients a day are being admitted to intensive care units, compared with 45-50 a day in April.

In the past month, Sweden has more than doubled its COVID-19 testing and only began offering mass testing to the public last week, a delay that has been highly criticised.

Tegnell told Swedish radio on Friday: "This is unfortunately a total misjudgment of the Swedish data."

"We can point at all other parameters we measure, i.e. how many serious cases we have, they are decreasing," he said.

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"The number of admissions into intensive care is at a very low level and even deaths are starting to decline."

Sweden has repeatedly defended its strategy by explaining it defers little to other countries despite having never imposed a strict lockdown.

Large gatherings are banned but restaurants and schools for young children have stayed open. The government urged social distancing, and Swedes have largely complied.

But Anders Tegnell does not have the confidence of all Swedes.

On Twitter, he has been depicted as a clown, called a "madman" and accused of making decisions "based on assumptions".