It seems like lockdown has become an inevitable part of the fight against COVID-19 in most countries, but Sweden has walked out against the flow and shown a severe success in the coronavirus war.
After months of no strict lockdown, the school closures and other mitigation methods intelligently imposed across the country have reduced the coronavirus cases and deaths to such minimum level and received intense debate over its so-called herd-immunity strategy.
The only reason Sweden’s government officials are not declaring victory is having the chance of the second wave. Many elderly died in the country during the relaxed pandemic restrictions.
The country’s population-adjusted death rate is still in the top 10 list but lower than Italy, Spain, and New York, where strict lockdown was imposed.
The significant drop in death rate and new cases in Sweden indicates a fast-improving situation contrary to many of the predictions made earlier.
The Swedish government has minimal intervention and imposed only a few restrictions upon its citizens during the pandemic phase. Despite all, the so-called “Swedish Model” has faced a lot of criticism from countless numbers of world health experts. Many of them insisted on imposing strict lockdown measures with maintaining social distancing and mandatory face mask orders as the most effective way of fighting the coronavirus.
Though there is not much evidence to support such measures, many governments, particularly in Western Europe and the US, have imposed strict lockdown measures for several months.
A large number of European heads of the state and US governors are still on the side of continuing the lockdown until the vaccine becomes available in the market. However, the vaccine’s development and effectiveness could take several years. Would it be a rational decision to continue the lockdown for an indefinite time?
Heavy Mitigation Lacks The “Historical Scientific Basis”
Sweden does not believe in imposing a strict regulation. While throughout March, the large number of countries in the world closed down their economy and strictly stopped individual’s mobility by imposing stay-at-home order, Sweden opted for a much lighter touch of restrictions where service industries and schools at large remained open.
Sweden didn’t even close its border. However, the country restricted any large gathering, and some of the schools were closed during the surge in COVID-19 cases.
According to the World Health Organization, Sweden’s death rate reached its peak 186 in late April, and have been declining ever since. Recently, the country even recorded as few as nine fatalities. In the last month, Sweden had new cases of low to mid hundred, and in recent days, no new cases were recorded at all.
Anders Tegnell, the country’s chief epidemiologist, and for months now the Swedish model’s public face, has always been dismissive of following strict lockdown measures that most have chosen to follow.
“Closedown, lockdown, closing borders — nothing has a historical, scientific basis, in my view,” Tegnell said in April. “We have looked at a number of European Union countries to see whether they have published any analysis of the effects of these measures before they were started, and we saw almost none.”
“Closing borders, in my opinion, is ridiculous, because COVID-19 is in every European country now,” Tegnell said at the time, adding, “Nowhere in Europe has been able to slow down the spread considerably.”
Sweden has always been the subject of sharp criticism from around the world. In July, the New York Times said that the country was a “cautionary tale” for the world. The National Post in June said the Swedish model “failed” and that the country “took the pain, but realized no gain.” In May, Wired stated that the country’s epidemiological experiment “well and truly failed.”
In countries that imposed stringent lockdown in the western world such as the UK, Italy, and Spain, the pandemic sometimes seemed to go out of control compared with Sweden’s relatively smooth epidemic curve. Italy and Spain, at their peak level, recorded hundreds of deaths regularly.
Smaller government authorities such as New York and New Jersey have a mortality rate far above Sweden.
Thus, it seems Sweden’s so-called “Swedish Method” effectively worked.