Number in intensive care in Sweden hits highest point since first wave

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People stand in line to get a COVID-19 vaccine outside the Stockholmsmassan exhibition center, in Stockholm

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - The number of patients being treated in intensive care units in Sweden is now higher than during the second wave of the pandemic and eclipsed only by the first, deadly outbreak of the disease roughly a year ago, figures showed on Monday.

Sweden has taken a different path from most countries during pandemic, opting against strict lockdowns, though it has gradually ratcheted up still mostly voluntary restrictions on public gatherings and social activities.

The number of new COVID-19 cases has been picking up in recent weeks and 392 people were now being treated in intensive care units, according to the Swedish Intensive Care Registry.

That topped the 389 who were treated in ICU units in early January, but was below the number in intensive care during the first wave of the pandemic in spring 2020, when the total reached as high as 558.

While infections have surged, the death toll from the disease has so far not spiked in similar fashion, a trend attributed by the health agency to the roll-out of vaccinations among the most vulnerable, above all nursing home residents.

(Reporting by Simon Johnson; editing by Niklas Pollard)