SHARE

Sweden is famously one of the few countries to have opted against a lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus. But given that the country has a much higher death toll per million than its Nordic neighbours, many observers have suggested that the Swedish approach has failed.

Advertising

Read more

While countries across the world have eased Covid-19 lockdowns over recent weeks, Sweden stands out: it never imposed confinement measures to begin with. As billions hunkered down throughout the globe in late March, Swedish bars, restaurants, hairdressers, gyms and even primary and middle schools stayed open.

There have been some exceptions. Secondary schools and museums have been closed, sport fixtures cancelled and gatherings of more than 50 people banned. Swedes have been asked to stay at home if they are over 70 or are feeling unwell. Social distancing has been requested in public places. And on Thursday, the government urged Swedes to avoid unnecessary international travel and to limit car journeys within the country to two hours.

But even these measures – minimal by the standards of numerous other countries – have been laxly enforced. Police are unable to impose fines to enforce social distancing; they can only tell people to comply.

The Swedish approach has won praise from figures on the American right such as Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who have suggested that it provides a model for the US to follow.

People who think they cant die

In making the case for its unorthodox policy, Stockholm has pointed to high levels of trust in Swedish society, arguing that people could be expected to take precautions without being told to.

“There are people who are really diligent and are doing exactly what they should do, but there are too many who dont,” said Elisabeth Asbrink, a Swedish author, freelance journalist and prominent critic of the governments approach. In parts of Stockholm, “people are doing all the things they usually do, as if theres no need to keep a distance”, she continued. “Ive also visited Malmo (Swedens third-biggest city) and theres a lot of people there who think they cant die, somehow; they think theyre unapproachable by this disease.”

Figures compiled by data analysis website Statista show that the total number of recorded Covid-19 cases in Sweden has been increasing steadily since the beginning of April – and now stands at more than 29,000.

Statistics suggest that Sweden has performed poorly compared to its Scandinavian neighbours, which imposed strict lockdowns. Experts say the other Nordic countries are the most apt points of comparison, given their similar healthcare systems, socio-political cultures and levels of connectedness.

Reported coronavirus deaths per million in Sweden stand at 358, according to Statista – even higher than the hard-hit US, at 267. The Swedish figure is dramatically worse than those of Denmark (93), Finland (53) and Norway (44). In Sweden, “were seeing an amplification of the epidemic, because theres simply more social contact”, said Lynn Goldman, dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University in the US.

In response to a comment in late April hailing Swedens performance, Nicolas Nassim Taleb – a professor of risk engineering at New York University, famous for his book on probability and uncertainty The Black Swantweeted back: “Stop the bullshit. Sweden did HORRIBLE [sic] compared to Norway Denmark Finland.”

They didnt have time to take care of my mother

Many Swedish experts have lambasted the governments response to the pandemic. Twenty-two doctors and scientists demanded a change of tack in an editorial piece in the newspaper Dagens Nyheter, published on April 14. “The approach must be changed radically and quickly,” they implored. “As the virus spreads, we need to increase social distance […] Politicians must intervene, there is no alternative.”

As in many other countries, nursing homes have been a particular source of anguish. Although visits were banned on March 31, half of those 70 and older in Sweden who have died from Covid-19 were living in nursing homes, according to figures released at the end of April. Staff have warned that they lack personal protective equipment.

“They didnt have time to take care of my mother,” one Stockholm resident – who claims his mother died of neglect in a nursing home while more than a third of its residents succumbed to the virus – told Agence-France-Presse last week.

“There are things which could have been done, and should be done, that would have altered the picture radically,” said Lena Einhorn, a Swedish virologist and critic of the goverRead More – Source