Health International

TIME: The Swedish Approach to COVID-19 is a “Disaster”

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In a story in TIME magazine, two Swedish writers declare that Sweden’s approach to the Coronovirus has been a disaster. The authors are KELLY BJORKLUND AND ANDREW EWING. Kelly Bjorklund is a writer and human rights activist who has worked on public policy and advocacy with elected officials, civil society and media for two decades. Andrew Ewing is a professor of molecular biology and chemistry at the University of Gothenburg and a member of the Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Unlike other European nations, Sweden decided not to lockdown the economy, not to close schools, and to count on people to wear masks and practice social distancing. Their public health officials predicted that the nation would quickly achieve “herd immunity” by exposing people to the virus.

The authors write:

The Swedish COVID-19 experiment of not implementing early and strong measures to safeguard the population has been hotly debated around the world, but at this point we can predict it is almost certain to result in a net failure in terms of death and suffering. As of Oct. 13, Sweden’s per capita death rate is 58.4 per 100,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University data, 12th highest in the world (not including tiny Andorra and San Marino). But perhaps more striking are the findings of a study published Oct. 12 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which pointed out that, of the countries the researchers investigated, Sweden and the U.S. essentially make up a category of two: they are the only countries with high overall mortality rates that have failed to rapidly reduce those numbers as the pandemic has progressed.

Yet the architects of the Swedish plan are selling it as a success to the rest of the world. And officials in other countries, including at the top level of the U.S. government, are discussing the strategy as one to emulate—despite the reality that doing so will almost certainly increase the rates of death and misery.

Countries that locked down early and/or used extensive test and tracing—including Denmark, Finland, Norway, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam and New Zealand—saved lives and limited damage to their economies. Countries that locked down late, came out of lock down too early, did not effectively test and quarantine, or only used a partial lockdown—including Brazil, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, Spain, Sweden, the U.S. and the U.K.—have almost uniformly done worse in rates of infection and death.

Read the article in full to see the graphs and accompanying evidence for the failure of Sweden to achieve “herd immunity.”

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