Sweden has dismissed Donald Trump’s understanding of its coronavirus combating strategy as “factually wrong” after the US president said it was “suffering badly”.

The Nordic country is an outlier in its approach to the pandemic, keeping restaurants, bars, and schools open despite neighbouring countries implementing restrictive lockdowns to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

On Tuesday, Trump claimed Sweden was relying on “the herd” – referring to herd immunity, which means allowing large numbers of the population to contract the virus and develop immunity while isolating more vulnerable groups.

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He said: “Sweden did that, the herd, they call it the herd. Sweden’s suffering very, very badly. It’s a way of doing it but the, you know, everybody has been watching everybody else and so far, almost every country has done it the way we’ve done it, we’ve chosen to do it.”

But Sweden’s foreign minister Ann Linde said his assessment of the country’s approach was “factually wrong” in an interview with broadcaster TV4 on Wednesday.

According to Reuters, she was quoted as saying: “Some countries seem to think that we aren’t doing anything, but we’re doing a lot of things that suit Sweden.

“We do not have a strategy that aims at herd immunity at all.

“[Sweden’s strategy is] No lockdown and we rely very much on people taking responsibility for themselves.”

Swedish authorities are allowing public places to remain open and gatherings of up to 50 people are still taking place, but updates rules about avoiding crowds and queues regularly. Restaurant, bar and cafe owners must take responsibility to minimise crowding in their establishments.

The Public Health Agency’s most recent guidelines, introduced on 7 April, reads: “All parts of society must contribute to the prevention of Covid-19, for example by staying informed and taking the appropriate precautions.

“The regulation for restaurants and bars place a large responsibility on those that fall under it. As part of their self-regulation, they must regularly do risk assessments, including the risk of crowds of people that may contribute to transmission of disease with serious consequences for society.”

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Anders Tegnell, chief epidemiologist at the Swedish Public Health Agency, also rejected Trump’s comments.

When asked at a press briefing if he shared Trump’s opinion, Mr Tegnell said: “No, as we said here before, no we won’t share his opinion. Of course, we’re suffering. Everyone in the world is suffering right now in different ways.

“But Swedish healthcare, which I guess he alludes to – it’s very difficult to understand – is taking care of this in a very, very good manner.”

Sweden has reported 9,141 positive cases of Covid-19, with 793 deaths as of Thursday.

The Nordic country’s approach, at odds with much of the rest of the world, has drawn skepticism by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The WHO told CNN earlier this week it was “imperative” that Sweden “increase measures to control the spread of the virus, prepare and increase capacity of the health system to cope, ensure physical distancing and communicate the why and how of all measures to the population”.

But Sweden remains confident in its strategy and its citizens. Prime minister Stefan Löfven said last month in a televised address: ‘We who are adults need to be exactly that: adults. Not spread panic or rumours.

“No one is alone in this crisis, but each person has a heavy responsibility.”

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