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Swedish professor quits Covid-19 research after he was bombarded with hate online

A Swedish professor who had been researching the effects of Covid-19 on children has quit after being bombarded with abuse online.

Jonas F Ludvigsson, a paediatrician at Örebro University Hospital and professor of clinical epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute, published data showing few children in Sweden became ill from Covid-19 during the first wave.

However, after publishing his findings in the New England Journal of Medicine, he was hit by a wave of criticism, leading him to put a stop to his work, according to the British Medical Journal (BMJ). 

Ludvigsson's research suggested Covid-19 had a minimal impact on children aged 1-6 in Sweden during the first wave. 

Swedish professor Jonas F Ludvigsson (pictured), who had been researching the effects of Covid-19 on children, has quit after being bombarded with abuse online because of his findings

However, following publication of his study, Ludvigsson told the Swedish Medical Association he woke up at 3am every night after being bombarded by online criticism.

The online abusers claimed Ludvigsson and his research had acted as representative's of Sweden's Covid-19 containment method - which had been more relaxed than other nations.

He said the abuse led to him losing his appetite for researching and talking about Covid-19.

As a result, Ludvigsson decided to quit researching the virus altogether. 

The data from his work found that between March 1, 2020, and June 30, 2020, only 15 children aged 1-16 in Sweden were treated in intensive care for Covid-19 or multi-inflammatory syndrome - which has been linked to coronavirus.

This is the same as 0.77 ICU patients per 100,000 children in that age bracket. 

Over the weekend Sweden recorded 11,804 new coronavirus cases, with an additional 56 deaths as a result of the virus

Speaking at the time of publication, Ludvigsson said: 'Four of the children had underlying diseases. None of the children died within two months after their period of intensive care.'

Despite online abusers claiming his study was propaganda acting to support Sweden's more relaxed response to coronavirus, Ludvigsson told the BMJ his study underwent formal external peer review, including statistical peer review, and the manuscript was revised four times before it was published.

In response to Ludvigsson's decision to quit his research, Sweden is planning to increase support for hits academics. 

Matilda Ernkrans, Sweden’s minister for higher education and research, told The BMJ: 'When people are silenced, it’s a threat against the freedom of speech and our democracy.'

She also said that the Swedish government was set to propose an amendment to the  Higher Education Act which protect those conducting research.

It comes as Swedish health chief Anders Tegnell has warned a third coronavirus wave in the country is inevitable if people continue not to follow government guidance. 

The number of new Covid-19 cases being reported in Sweden has risen by ten per cent for the third week in a row - with intensive care units now beginning to feel the strain. 

A number of new restrictions were put in place yesterday to help curb the potential third wave, including limited opening hours for shops and restaurants; the number of people allowed in shops and gyms were slashed and a maximum of eight people are allowed to meet at one time.

It comes as Swedish health chief Anders Tegnell (pictured) has warned a third coronavirus wave in the country is inevitable if people continue not to follow government guidance

Despite this, in a press release, epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said that a third wave is imminent in Sweden if the current restrictions are not followed, Aftonbladet reports.

This was echoed by Sweden's Public Health Agency (PHA), which warned that even tougher restrictions could be necessary if people do not follow the rules. 

Over the weekend Sweden recorded 11,804 new coronavirus cases, with an additional 56 deaths as a result of the virus.

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

With Sweden already heading towards scenarios one and two, more restrictions are likely to be enforced, though Tegnell was unable to outline where new measures would be implemented.

Instead he suggested that any new restrictions would be in response to relevant areas in which a large spread of Covid-19 occurs. 

However, one measure which has been proposed, is to set a maximum limit on the number of people admitted into shopping malls and department stores to just 500.

This change could be enforced as soon as March 6, but the Public Health Agency is also working on other measures. 

What restrictions were put in place in Sweden on Monday? 

Opening times reduced - The opening hours for restaurants, pubs and cafes around Sweden have been slashed in response to the increase in coronavirus cases. 

Previously establishments had to stop serving alcohol at 8pm and new rules mean that they will have to fully close at 8.30pm.

Despite the new opening hours, establishments serving food can still send out deliveries.

Visitors in restaurants - Only one visitor from a party may enter a restaurant that forms part of a trading place.

This rule does not apply where a restaurant can be reached from a different entrance. 

Fewer numbers in gyms and shops - The number of people entering gyms, shops and malls will also be reduced.

The Swedish Public Health Agency has been under increasing pressure to manage these numbers at local levels.

People wishing to go out shopping Sweden are encouraged to head out on their own, unless caring for children. 

Public transport to run half-full - Where a journey on a train exceeds 150Km, providers have been told to only operate at half-capacity.

Anybody using public transport must wear a mouth covering when a seat is not offered. 

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