Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s state epidemiologist, said the different approach reflected the independence traditionally enjoyed by government agencies like the Public Health Agency of Sweden and the reluctance of politicians to override expert advice.

“I might look like the figurehead, but agencies in Sweden are very much working as a whole,” he told the Daily Telegraph. “These are not decisions I take on my own in my little office.”

He conceded, however, that if infection rates do start to soar and Sweden ends up in a similar situation to that Italy or Spain has faced, he would face criticism.

“Of course, I and the agency will be to blame, for sure. I’m quite aware of that,” he said. “But I would feel a lot worse taking a lot of decisions I don’t believe in and for things to go wrong, than to take decisions I and the agency very much do believe in and for things not to work out.”