When most of Europe confined its population by closing schools, restaurants, gyms, and even borders, Swedes continued to enjoy many freedoms. The country has 88,237 infections and 5,864 deaths.
A train stops at Odenplan metro station in central Stockholm, Sweden, where passengers without masks they go up or down before settling in to look at their cell phones.
Whether they are trains or trams, supermarkets or shopping centers – places where masks are common in much of the world- Swedes live their lives without them.
When most of Europe confined its population at the start of the pandemic by closing schools, restaurants, gyms and even borders, the Swedes continued to enjoy many freedoms.
The relatively low-key strategy caught the world’s attention. But it also coincided with a per capita death rate much older than other Nordic countries.
Now that infections are on the rise again in much of Europe, the country of 10 million inhabitants registers one of the lowest figures of new cases of coronavirus, and only has 14 patients of the virus in intensive care.
However, whether Sweden’s strategy is a success is still unclear.
Your health authorities, and in particular Chief Epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, keep repeating an already familiar phrase: it’s too early to say, and all countries are in different phases of the pandemic.
That hasn’t stopped a World Health Organization official from saying the continent should learn some lessons from Sweden that could help fight the virus elsewhere.
“We must recognize that Sweden, at this time, has avoided the increase which has been seen in some of the other countries in Western Europe, ” WHO Europe Emergency Officer Catherine Smallwood said Thursday. “I think lessons can be learned from that. We will be very attentive to work and learn more about the Swedish strategy.
According to the European Center for Disease Control, Sweden has reported 30.3 new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days, compared to 292.2 in Spain, 172.1 in France, 61.8 in Great Britain and 69.2 in Denmark, countries that imposed strict quarantines at the beginning of the pandemic.
In total, Sweden has reported 88,237 infections and 5,864 deaths from the virus, or 57.5 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants since the beginning of the crisis.
The way Sweden’s strategy was viewed abroad seemed to depend primarily on what phase of the pandemic the observer was in at the time. At first, many foreigners viewed with disbelief the images of Swedes dining with friends in restaurants or having cocktails on the shores of Stockholm. Some were envious of Swedish businesses, which were not forced to close.
Then came the shock when the virus struck nursing homes and hospices of the country.
By mid-April, more than 100 people were dying every day in Sweden, while death rates were falling in other European countries.
Now, as the second wave of infections grows on the continent, it is fashionable to praise Sweden. French, British and other reporters travel to Stockholm to inquire about its success.
But a Swedish government commission investigating the management of the pandemic will undoubtedly find tough questions to answer. Did they wait too long to limit access to nursing homes, where half of the deaths occurred? Did they take too long to provide personal protection equipment for workers in these centers, given that the problems in the elderly care sector had been known for a long time? Why did large-scale diagnostic tests take so long?