Sweden, which drew significant criticism last year for refusing to lockdown its economy to prevent the spread of covid-19, saw a smaller increase in its death rate than most of Europe, according to official figures.

According to Eurostat, the EU’s official statistics organisation, no-lockdown Sweden had 7.7% more deaths in 2020 than they would have in an ordinary year. This compares with countries like Spain, which had a very strict lockdown, and saw excess mortality of 18.1%. Meanwhile Belgium saw an increase of 16.2%. In fact, of the 30 countries listed, Sweden has less excess deaths than 21 of them.

Sweden’s excess mortality also ranked very low on another dataset released by the UK’s Office for National Statistics last week, ranking them 18th out of 26.

Sweden’s relaxed lockdown response was the brainchild of the Nordic country’s head epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, who told Reuters that he believed the data raised serious doubts about the effectiveness of lockdowns for combating covid-19.

“I think people will probably think very carefully about these total shutdowns, how good they really were,” he said.

“They may have had an effect in the short term, but when you look at it throughout the pandemic, you become more and more doubtful,” said Tegnell. He has reportedly received both flowers commending his controversial policy, and also death threats cursing him for it.

However, Sweden’s excess mortality rate seems to have fared much worse than its Scandinavian neighbours – Denmark registered just 1.5% excess mortality, while Finland saw a mere 1.0% increase. Norway had no excess mortality at all in 2020 – its death rate was about the same as any other normal year.