In the last ten days, Sweden, which did not institute a lockdown on its population, has reportedly averaged one death per day and has a total of 13 patients in intensive care.
“Sweden registered its lowest rate of positive coronavirus tests yet even as its testing regime has been expanded to record levels, in what some experts regard as a vindication of its comparatively unintrusive Covid-19 strategy,” The Times noted.
Sweden chose a far more “open” approach than many Western countries in its response to the Covid-19 pandemic. As the Daily Mail explains, “Officials in Stockholm argued at the start of the pandemic that the virus would present a long-term challenge and that it would be more beneficial for people to continue going about their daily business and develop immunity to it. The public were urged to work from home where possible but schools, bars and restaurants largely remained open throughout, and while people are urged to keep 1.5m away from each other. Sweden has not demanded masks be worn in shops or on transport.”
There were some projections that Sweden’s policy could result in 50,000 deaths, Newsweek reported in mid-May. Thus far, 5,838 people have died in Sweden from COVID-19.
In April, Dr. Cecilia Soderberg Naucler, an expert in microbial pathogenesis at the Karolinska Institute, predicted that the country was “heading for catastrophe” due to its anti-lockdown approach.
“I’m a scientist, I only trust data and the data says we are heading for catastrophe,” said the expert. “We are now part of an experiment without informed consent.”
In mid-July, CBS News published an article titled, “Sweden becomes an example of how not to handle COVID-19,” in which the outlet wrote, “Many countries now see Sweden as a cautionary tale.”
In May, Sweden’s prime minister admitted to not protecting its elderly population enough initially. “We did not manage to protect the most vulnerable people, the most elderly, despite our best intentions,” said Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. The BBC highlighted that “most of the 3,698 people who have died from coronavirus in Sweden so far were over 70,” as is the case with other countries.
Based on the number of deaths through September 10, the estimated deaths per million in Sweden would be 8,524, while neighboring countries such as Denmark would be estimated at 3,265 per million and Norway would be 2,174.
However, on Monday, thelocal.no reported that Sweden’s new case rates are better than Norway’s over the previous week: “Using the rate of infections per 100,000 residents during the last 7 days, Norway has registered 1.2 new cases of Covid-19 per day compared to 0.9 cases in Sweden, according to figures as of September 7th, according to newspaper VG’s count which is also based on figures from health authorities.” The outlet notes that, according to NRK, “Norway has not had a higher current rate of infection than Sweden since April 1st.”
Espen Nakstad, vice director of the Norwegian Directorate of Health, stated, “This is a clear sign that people in Sweden are doing a lot of things sensibly, maintaining social distance and using hygiene advice actively, and are careful about the spread of the virus.”
The Daily Mail added, “Denmark, which also imposed tight restrictions, has seen its infection rate rise higher than that witnessed in Sweden, despite initially seeming to have curbed the worst of the virus.”
Epidemiologist Johan Carlson, head of the Public Health Agency of Sweden, said, “The purpose of our approach is for people themselves to understand the need to follow the recommendations and guidelines that exist. There are no other tricks before there are available medical measures, primarily vaccines. The Swedish population has taken this to heart.”
Jonas Ludvigsson, professor of epidemiology at the Karolinska Institutet, echoed, “Our strategy was consistent and sustainable. We probably have a lower risk of [the virus] spreading than other countries.”
Susann Järhult, senior lecturer emergency medicine at Uppsala University Hospital, Sweden, had been in Australia and returned to Sweden in June. She told Newsweek, “It soon became obvious that the 70+ population were self-isolating and/or taking high precautions. Others made efforts to adhere to given guidelines on a daily basis. Shops, restaurants, cafés, public transportation as well as other public places had made COVID adjustments. … Public awareness and responsibility was clearly visible—and audible—people of all ages and settings were engaged in discussions and thoughts on the chosen strategy. The possible number of non-clinical infections and immunity among the lower age-groups was debated. Pros as well as cons to the chosen strategy were transparently broadcasted in the media.”