When the rest of the world issued lockdown orders and distancing guidelines that crippled their economies, Sweden went a different direction. It issued minor lockdowns for vulnerable demographics, but has kept up business as usual for much of its population.
Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde has said the country is forgoing lockdowns in favor of “people taking responsibility themselves.” The strategy is known as “herd immunity,” in which the vulnerable are isolated while young and healthy get infected to develop immunity to the virus. Once enough of the healthy population has immunity, the strategy goes, the vulnerable can be reintroduced to society. As a result, Sweden’s bars, restaurants, and schools are still open, but other countries have been highly critical of the response, including President Donald Trump.
“I think we could have followed [Sweden’s] approach,” Trump said at a press briefing Friday. “And if we did follow that approach I think we might have two million people dead. Sweden is having a lot of difficulty.” (RELATED: Big Banks Received Billions In 2008 Bailouts, Now They’re Slow To Help Small Businesses)
Indeed, Sweden’s approach of isolating the elderly has not been successful, with one third of nursing homes having cases of the virus.
“The Scandinavian model simply outsources care from families to caretakers who visit dozens of clients every week. Caretakers are rarely tested for the virus but have simply been urged to stay at home if and shortly after experiencing symptoms,” the Washington Post reported. (RELATED: Victims Of Communism Memorial Foundation Adds Global Coronavirus Deaths To Its Tally Of Historical Victims Of Communism)
Advocates of the herd immunity strategy have also argued that avoiding lockdowns can prevent the economic disaster that has struck countries like the United States. Sweden, however, is still expected to lose 3.4 percent of its GDP in 2020, which is less than Spain and Italy, but more than the U.S.
As of April 10, Sweden had 9,865 confirmed coronavirus cases and 870 deaths, which puts its mortality rate at an astonishingly high 8.9 percent. This death rate is almost certainly due to a lack of testing, however.
Nevertheless, Sweden’s former State Epidemiologist Johan Giesecke remains confident that the country’s strategy is working.
“I think we will manage the epidemic without destroying the economy more than necessary,” he said, according to the Post. “The absolutely most important thing is to protect the elderly from getting infected. I think we succeed quite well in that. It lies in the Swedish national character to do as one is told.”
The country is still in the early stages of its outbreak, however, and the world will only know whether Sweden made the right call months down the line.