Fans say he radiates dad-like Swedish cool. Critics say his plan means doing nothing while people die
9 min read
He's an unlikely hero of Sweden's contentious pandemic plan. Lauded by fans for his "Swedish dad cool", Anders Tegnell is also accused of allowing the COVID-19 casualties to pile up.
As the architect of Sweden's controversial COVID-19 strategy, Anders Tegnell is a scientist with security.

Sweden's chief epidemiologist routinely walks the short distance through Stockholm's streets from his office to the Health Ministry Press Centre, flanked by two no-nonsense men with earpieces.

He's become a deeply polarising figure in the global debate on how best to combat coronavirus.

Sweden's chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell's plan has been likened to a herd-immunity strategy — a charge he denies. ( Foreign Correspondent )

Under his guidance, Sweden was the only EU country not to impose tough, extensive, mandatory lockdowns. As the country's death toll rises, Tegnell faces a growing chorus of international condemnation and recently, a few death threats.

But, this being Sweden, a proudly egalitarian society, he's still on the street and accessible to foe and friend alike. "Good work, gang!" yells a supporter as she whizzes past Team Tegnell on her bicycle.

Anders Tegnell is not bowing to pressure. He still believes tough, short-term lockdowns are not the way to beat COVID-19, and that his strategy of keeping society largely open and the economy running will be proven right in the long term.

The man with the plan

Tegnell typifies Swedes' self-image as low-key, no-nonsense types. Fielding questions from journalists in the street, he doesn't even break his stride.

Journalist: A fair amount of pressure in your life these days? Tegnell: Ah. Not that bad. Journalist: You're one of Sweden's most famous men? Tegnell: It will pass. Journalist: Isn't there something you like about celebrity? Tegnell: Not at all — I prefer to do my work.

This is not his first high-pressure assignment. Tegnell cut his epidemiological teeth during a deadly Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1990s.

As he fronts up to face the world's cameras, he calmly takes all questions, explaining why Sweden's pandemic plan is still working despite a COVID death…
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