The Swedish Government Didn’t Enforce Social Distancing — and Now It’s Paying the Price

by on May 27, 2020 · 1 comment

in Health, World News

by Blake Fleetwood / Washington Monthly / May 26, 2020

In late March, when every other European country was in a lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Sweden remained the outlier. Instead of imposing strict shelter-in-place orders, officials decided that Swedes could be relied upon to follow sanitation guidelines themselves. Restaurants, shops, and recreational spots stayed open.

After all, Sweden has an excellent national health care system that ranks third in the world (the U.S. clocks in at a dismal 44). And with the Swedes’ low levels of obesity and diabetes, their generally good health and ample supply of hospital beds offer far better odds against COVID-19.

But even with these advantages, many Swedes did not stay at home. Sweden’s experiment in waging a lax battle against COVID-19 cost the country dearly.

As of May 19, Sweden had more coronavirus deaths per capita than any other country in Europe, according to the Financial Times. Sweden’s death rate soared well above the neighboring Scandinavian countries that mandated their people stay at home: While Sweden has more than 3,300 excess deaths—a figure calculated comparing the number of deaths during the same time frame last year—Denmark had 300, while Norway and Finland had fewer than 100 each, according to the New York Times. Iceland’s death toll after its lockdown has been an impressive 11 times lower than the current figures in Sweden. These numbers make it clear: Sweden’s risky bet on keeping their economy open—placing its faith on the concept of herd immunity—wasn’t worth the hand.

Ironically, Sweden has found cheerleaders among the same Republicans and conservatives that have long vilified its socialized health care, progressive tax system, and liberal social policies. Even still, conservatives continue to hail the leftist country as a bastion of freedom and individual liberty during the COVID-19 pandemic. Anti-lockdown protestors rally have chanted, “Be more like Sweden!”

But for the steep cost in human lives, did Sweden at least save its economy? Nope. Its Central Bank projects a GDP downturn of 10 percent, about the same rate as its European counterparts.

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Bunky May 27, 2020 at 5:33 pm

It will be interesting to see how this plays out as Sweden’s Covid-19 deaths have been front loaded as the curve/flatten the curve maps show. As time goes by and Sweden has herd immunity the lower curve will continue at neighboring countries and who knows what the death totals will be when this is over. And, do we have stats on suicides and health issues and economic impact in Sweden vs. the neighboring counties?


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