Has the Swedish Government Got it Right?

4 April 2020. Updated 30 April 2020.

For lockdown sceptics, Sweden is exhibit A in the case for the prosecution. Unlike nearly every other Western government, and not a few governments in the developing world, Sweden has not locked down its citizens. Instead, it is following the mitigation strategy the UK Government was pursuing before it was frightened into changing course by Imperial College’s March 16th paper. Restaurants, bars and schools remain open (although schools for over-16 year-olds have closed) and gatherings of up to 50 people are still permitted. Over Easter, Sweden’s ski resorts in the North of the country remained open. And to date, Sweden’s death toll for the year has remained within the normal range.

But there is growing dissent over this policy within Sweden. According to a report in the Guardian on March 30th:

A petition signed by more than 2,000 doctors, scientists, and professors last week – including the chairman of the Nobel Foundation, Prof Carl-Henrik Heldin – called on the Government to introduce more stringent containment measures. “We’re not testing enough, we’re not tracking, we’re not isolating enough – we have let the virus loose,” said Prof Cecilia Söderberg-Nauclér, a virus immunology researcher at the Karolinska Institute. “They are leading us to catastrophe.”

Another reason for not setting too much store by the laissez-faire approach of the Swedish Government is that it may not be doing much to help the Swedish economy, which will likely experience the same contraction as other economies, such as the UK’s, absent a lockdown. The reason, of course, is that people are voluntarily self-isolating even though the Swedish Government isn’t mandating it.

Further Reading

All eyes on the Swedish coronavirus experiment‘ by Freddie Sayers, UnHerd, March 20th 2020

“They are leading us to catastrophe”: Sweden’s coronavirus stoicism begins to jar‘ by Derek Robertson, The Guardian, March 30th 2020

To Swedes, it’s the rest of the world engaging in a reckless experiment‘ by Fraser Nelson, Telegraph, April 2nd 2020

‘Half of Sweden’s population could be infected by coronavirus in April, statistician warns‘ by Chris Pleasance, MailOnline, April 2nd 2020

Is Sweden’s lax approach to the coronavirus backfiring?‘ by Pauline Neuding and Tino Sanandaji, Washington Post, April 8th 2020

A Closer Look at the Swedish Model‘ by Andrew Smith, Polite, April 18th 2020

Stockholm could have herd immunity by the end of the month‘, AOL, April 19th 2020

The Swedish experiment looks like it’s paying off‘ by Fredrik Erixon, The Spectator, April 20th 2020

Coronavirus: Has Sweden got its science right?‘ by Maddy Savage, BBC News, April 25th 2020

If Sweden succeeds, lockdowns will all have been for nothing‘ by Dan Hannan, The Telegraph, April 25th 2020

WHO lauds lockdown-ignoring Sweden as a “model” for countries going forward’ by Jackie Salo, New York Post, April 29th 2020

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1 month ago

I truly hope I’m wrong today (14th April). But give it two weeks, and that drop-off in deaths will probably look like a statistical aberration.

Thomas Pelham
Thomas Pelham
1 month ago
Reply to  Davethedog


that’s the best place to see the deaths – as with ours, each day is not a record of those that died that day but those deaths that were registered that day. The drop-offs dissappear, but it’s obvious that it’s not going exponential.

Richard Q Public
Richard Q Public
1 month ago

The Swedes have it right. All their statistics mirror the rest of the world. As everywhere 98% of deaths are over 65 and of those pre existing conditions in a majority of them.
Their hospitals and health care system are not overwhelmed and the functionality of the economy ensures PPE and health workers can get to where they need to be. As mentioned, it is the rest of the world that is conducting a futile experiment because of what we now know are faulty statistics from the WHO. Sweden is treating this for what it is, a Coronavirus flu rather than Influenza flu.
The article makes it seem that staying open still exposes Sweden to a 4% drop in GDP, not sure what the point is, as the UK is expecting a 25% loss.
Sweden is doing it right and reasonably.

10 days ago

Sweden has achieved the unlikely equilibrium of R = 1, linear growth of cases and deaths over the ensuing months. They have not seen a decline or growth in incidence. This shows the exit plan, get incidence down and then maintain R about 1. Their nursing home epidemic mimics our own. Neighbor countries have achieved much greater control of infections.

Their epidemiologists predicted that at the end of April, 25% would have had the infection. The data shows that only 7% have been infected. Hence the path to herd immunity is a very long way off and the disease does not appear how they first believed, and much more in line with other predictions from other countries.

The Swedish “experiment” is not without merit, however. Just as Italy showed the U.K. what we were heading for, Sweden shows the way out.

9 days ago
Reply to  Djaustin

Anders Tegnell, one of the architects of the Swedish policy, said he was very puzzled by the testing result that only 7% of Stockholm had been infected. He said that while he accepted there would be some uncertainty in his modelling, he found it hard to believe that it would be THAT wrong and the number of people who had been infected would be so much smaller than expected.

However, in that regard, it is worth reading Freddie Sayers article, written after his interview with Sunetra Gupta, the Oxford epidemiologist.


To quote from the article:

“As she sees it, the antibody studies, although useful, do not indicate the true level of exposure or level of immunity. First, many of the antibody tests are “extremely unreliable” and rely on hard-to-achieve representative groups. But more important, many people who have been exposed to the virus will have other kinds of immunity that don’t show up on antibody tests — either for genetic reasons or the result of pre-existing immunities to related coronaviruses such as the common cold.”

9 days ago
Reply to  Mars-in-Aries
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