Was Sweden right from the beginning?
Move around without a mask, go to cafes and to school.Source: B92
In fact, in Sweden, you can do everything opposite from other European countries who find the main weapon against the virus in lockdown, curfew, closing borders, the mandatory wearing of masks, and similar measures that drastically change the daily lives of citizens.
The Swedish government has decided that the measures it is taking against the pandemic should be evidence-based. Their stance is that if you look at the measures being taken by different countries, you will see that not so many are evidence-based.
"What we are sure of has been a known fact for more than 150 years; in a pandemic one should wash hands for his own sake and for the sake of others. But other things, such as closing borders, closing schools, social exclusion, generally have no scientific basis," one of the leading Swedish epidemiologists said.
The Swedish experts have thus concluded that lockdown brings more harm than good and has a very limited positive effect.
Last autumn, Sweden did tighten its measures to some extent under the pressure of the coronavirus, but the strategy has not changed significantly. The position is still that the wave of infection is unstoppable and that it will hit every country on the continent with equal force, regardless of the measures taken.
Today, a year or so since the beginning of the pandemic, Sweden has the ninth highest infection rate in Europe and the sixth-lowest mortality rate on the continent, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
The Swedish hospital system, thanks to a lot of effort put and enormous material resources managed to withstand two big waves of infection and is now in the middle of the third, and Swedish citizens still enjoy probably the greatest freedom compared to the epidemiological restrictions across Europe.
However, the Swedish approach to the pandemic is not a fairy tale but in every respect an expensive battle for the normal life and health of the nation, with so many questions still to be answered.
For weeks, the Swedish epidemiological experts were assuring the public that the pandemic would not happen, and it happened to them after all, and they even had over 100 mortalities on a daily basis due to coronavirus.
Then the same epidemiologist stated: "Sweden has failed to protect elderly citizens, we did not do enough. We should have banned visits to retirement homes much earlier."
Some reports marked the Swedish strategy as a dangerous experiment, others called Sweden the last oasis of personal freedoms in Europe and still others spread sensationalist stories about "old people's deaths" and deprivation of oxygen or intensive care for dying patients.
Several catastrophic projections popped up, a request for the arrest of a leading Swedish epidemiologist was made, he was being threatened, but he constantly claimed that the Swedish statistics were accurate and that this was probably the reason why their figures were more realistic and seemed to have more cases than many other countries.
The Swedes never accepted the masks, the chief epidemiologist even encouraged staying outside, the measures changed on monthly basis, but that change was never drastic, and eventually, it turned out that the Swedish mortality surplus of 7.7 percent is only 22nd among 30 European countries
In early February, while Sweden had about 4,000 new infections per 10.3 million inhabitants each day, the public was debating whether to go skiing, and Sweden's chief epidemiologist refused to urge citizens not to travel to the mountains, so the Swedish ski resorts were sold out.
In the meantime, vaccination of citizens against coronavirus has begun, and the question of whether the Swedes have made a mistake in the pandemic strategy or acted more prudently than most European countries will probably never get an answer.
The fact is that Sweden public health system has had significantly worse results than its Nordic neighbors and significantly better than the rest of Europe.
In short, the Swedish strategy now boils down to the following:
"People who would otherwise die in a few months are dying today and of course, that's not good, but the effects of a lockdown will have even more terrible long-term consequences that we can apprehend. A very small percentage of people get seriously ill, even fewer die, and the majority of pandemics happen in places we don't see, in people with negligible symptoms who will never seek medical attention. The virus won't stop until it gets in a dead-end, or until we achieve collective immunity, by lying down or getting vaccinated, or both."