Sweden’s hands-off approach to fighting coronavirus

Sweden’s hands-off approach to fighting coronavirus
Source: Argus Press

Although the government of Sweden has advised its citizens to practice social distancing, work from home if possible and pay special attention to protecting the elderly during the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic, it has yet to implement stricter controls as seen in other countries around the world.

Thus far, Sweden has reported fewer cases compared to other nations in the region, with some 3,700 total cases and 110 deaths as of March 30. Italy has seen nearly 100,000 cases and over 10,000 deaths. Germany has experienced over 60,000 and France over 40,000 recorded infections.

Business as usual?

In Sweden, high schools and universities have been closed. However, preschools, primary schools, restaurants, cafés and some businesses remain open.

While Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announced that there would be a reduction in public gathering restrictions to 50 people instead of 500, the country seems to generally be trusting its citizens to take the necessary precautions to stem the virus.

“That’s the way we work in Sweden,” said state epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell. “Our whole system for communicable disease control is based on voluntary action […] You give them the option to do what is best in their lives. That works very well, according to our experience.”

Criticism faced

Critics, however, remain skeptical. In Denmark, a neighboring Scandinavian country, near-total lockdown has been put in place. Gatherings of 10 people or more are forbidden and schools and most public places are closed.

Thus far, although the situation in Denmark is similarly moderate, with 2,555 reported cases and 72 total deaths as of March 30, some Danes are concerned that their neighbors are not doing enough to stem the spread. A recent headline in a Danish newspaper reads: “Does Sweden not take the corona crisis seriously?” Since March 14, Denmark has reportedly closed its borders with Sweden.

There are critics within Sweden as well. In a joint opinion piece in a Swedish daily newspaper, an infectious disease expert and statistician argues that “the Public Health Agency must swiftly and unambiguously recommend social distancing for everyone, not just for those above 70,” suggesting “far-reaching measures may be needed”.


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