At the start of this year, Anders Tegnell was just a low-profile bureaucrat in a country of 10-million people, heading a department that collects and analyses data on public health. Now, he has become one of the best-known — and most controversial — figures of the global coronavirus crisis.

The 64-year-old Swedish doctor was meant to spend 2020 helping Somalia set up a public health agency and sending questionnaires to Swedes to gauge different aspects of their wellbeing. Instead, his approach to Covid-19 — to keep schools, restaurants, fitness centres and borders open while refusing to follow China in imposing a formal lockdown — has caused him to become an unlikely polarising figure for a polarised age.

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