Sweden sees slowdown in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations

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Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic continues in Stockholm

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden has seen a decline in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations in recent weeks, the Health Agency said on Tuesday, though it warned it was too early to say if it represented a lasting slowdown.

Sweden, whose unorthodox pandemic strategy has placed it in the global spotlight, registered 9,779 new coronavirus cases since Friday, health agency statistics showed. The figure compared with 17,395 cases the corresponding period last week.

"It has started to come down in all age groups, although primarily among younger people," Chief Epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told a news conference. "We will see if it lasts."

Some 340 patients were being treated in intensive care on Tuesday, a decline of around 20 from last week, as hospitals continued to battle a second wave of the virus that has been of much the same magnitude as the deadly outbreak during spring.

The country of 10 million inhabitants registered 268 new deaths, taking the total to 10,591. The deaths registered have occurred over several days and weeks with many from the Christmas period being registered with a significant delay.

The Health Agency also said 147,000 doses of vaccine had been used as of the end of last week, equal to one dose for around 1.5% of the population. It said none of Sweden's 21 regions had reported any problems in administering the vaccine.

Sweden's death rate per capita is several times higher than that of its Nordic neighbours' but lower than in several European countries that opted for lockdowns.

(Reporting by Johan Ahlander, editing by Anna Ringstrom and Niklas Pollard)