As a lot of the world shut down early within the COVID pandemic, Sweden remained open. The nation’s method was controversial, with some calling it “the Swedish experiment”. However virtually two-and-a-half years after the pandemic started, what can we are saying immediately in regards to the outcomes of this “experiment”?
First, let’s recap what Sweden’s technique appeared like. The nation largely caught to its pandemic plan, initially developed for use within the occasion of an influenza pandemic. As an alternative of lockdowns, the purpose was to attain social distancing by public well being suggestions.
Swedes had been inspired to work at home if potential and restrict journey inside the nation. As well as, folks aged 70 or older had been requested to restrict social contact, and folks with COVID signs had been requested to self-isolate. The purpose was to guard the aged and different high-risk teams whereas slowing down the unfold of the virus so the healthcare system wouldn’t change into overwhelmed.
Because the variety of circumstances surged, some restrictions had been imposed. Public occasions had been restricted to a most of fifty folks in March 2020, and eight folks in November 2020. Visits to nursing properties had been banned and higher secondary faculties closed. Major faculties did, nevertheless, stay open all through the pandemic.
Face masks weren’t really helpful for most of the people in the course of the first wave, and solely in sure conditions later within the pandemic.
Throughout spring 2020, the reported COVID demise fee in Sweden was among the many highest on the earth. Neighbouring international locations that carried out fast lockdown measures, reminiscent of Norway and Denmark, had been faring a lot better, and Sweden obtained harsh criticism for its lax method.
However defenders of the Swedish technique claimed it might repay in the long term, arguing that draconian measures weren’t sustainable and that the pandemic was a marathon, not a dash.
So did Sweden’s method repay?
Let’s have a look at extra mortality as a key instance. This metric takes the whole variety of deaths and compares this determine with pre-pandemic ranges, capturing the broader results of the pandemic and accounting for incorrect reporting of COVID deaths.
The choice to maintain main faculties open additionally paid off. The incidence of extreme acute COVID in kids has been low, and a current research confirmed that Swedish kids didn’t endure the studying loss seen in lots of different international locations.
On this mild, the Swedish technique has gone from being referred to as “a catastrophe” and “cautionary story” to a “Scandinavian success”. However to attract any related conclusions, it’s essential we dig somewhat additional into how Swedes navigated the pandemic.
Notably, any perceptions that individuals in Sweden went on with their on a regular basis lives in the course of the pandemic as if nothing had modified are unfaithful.
In a survey by Sweden’s Public Well being Company from the spring of 2020, greater than 80% of Swedes reported that they had adjusted their behaviour, for instance by practising social distancing, avoiding crowds and public transport, and dealing from residence. Aggregated cellular information confirmed that Swedes lowered their journey and mobility in the course of the pandemic.
Swedes weren’t pressured to take motion in opposition to the unfold of the virus, however they did so anyway. This voluntary method may not have labored in all places, however Sweden has a historical past of excessive belief in authorities, and folks are likely to comply with public well being suggestions.
It’s additionally troublesome to check Sweden’s outcomes to these of nations exterior of Scandinavia which have very totally different social and demographic circumstances.
Strengths and weaknesses
Regardless of the advantages of avoiding lockdown, the Swedish response was not flawless. In late 2020, the Corona Fee, an unbiased committee appointed by the federal government to guage the Swedish pandemic response, discovered the federal government and the Public Well being Company had largely failed of their ambition to guard the aged.
At the moment, virtually 90% of those that had died with COVID in Sweden had been 70 or older. Half of those folks had been dwelling in a care residence, and slightly below 30% had been receiving residence assist companies.
Certainly, quite a few issues inside aged care in Sweden turned evident in the course of the pandemic. Structural shortcomings reminiscent of inadequate staffing ranges left nursing properties unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with the state of affairs.
In its closing report on the pandemic response, the Corona Fee concluded that harder measures ought to have been taken early within the pandemic, reminiscent of quarantine for these coming back from high-risk areas and a brief ban on entry to Sweden.
The fee did, nevertheless, state that the no-lockdown technique was essentially cheap, and that the state ought to by no means intrude with the rights and freedoms of its residents greater than completely crucial. The fee additionally supported the choice to maintain main faculties open.
By comparability, the Corona Fee in Norway, one of many few international locations in Europe with decrease extra mortality than Sweden, concluded that though the dealing with of the pandemic in Norway was usually good, kids had been hit laborious by lockdowns and the authorities didn’t adequately defend them.
The main focus of Sweden’s technique was to cut back the unfold of the virus, but in addition to think about different points of public well being and defend freedom and basic rights. Whereas the Swedish technique stays controversial, immediately most international locations are taking related approaches to the persevering with pandemic.
Wanting again, it appears a bit unjust that the nation that adopted its pre-pandemic plan was the nation accused of conducting an experiment on its inhabitants. Maybe Sweden as a substitute must be thought-about the management group, whereas the remainder of the world underwent an experiment.