MS Risk Blog

Sweden’s Refusal to Implement Strict Lockdown

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Sweden has conducted an unusual approach towards the global coronavirus pandemic. The nation has rejected copying the measures implemented by other countries in Western Europe, which includes a complete nationwide lockdown. Instead, the country has been heavily relying on trusting public’s behaviour to follow the government’s request of social distancing. Some restrictions are implemented, such as banning public gatherings of more than 50 participants and visits to nursing homes. Some universities have also been closed and have instead implemented online learning. Other than that, everything is staying the same as there is no pandemic going. Primary schools, shops, restaurants, hair salons, and other public places have been kept open. The measure implemented is in stark contrast to the neighbouring Nordic countries which share similar cultural, geographical, and sociological traits such as Norway, Denmark, and Finland. The three neighbouring countries have implemented strict nationwide lockdowns, closing all schools, restaurants, and other public places. Sweden’s government however stated that lockdown in Sweden will be pointless because Swedes could be trusted to conduct social distancing. Around 75% of Sweden’s population agreed with the measures taken by the government. However, many of Sweden’s scientists have been accusing the government of experimenting with people’s lives. The international community has also condemned Sweden’s lack of action and accused the government of trying to reach ‘herd immunity’. The accusations have been denied by Swedish Minister of Health and Social Affairs, Lena Hallengren, stating that Sweden has no plan to create herd immunity and shares the same goals as other countries, which is to save people’s lives. Still, the World Health Organization (WHO) has called on Sweden to take more measures in regards to controlling the spread of the virus.  Other than that, data has shown several indications that Sweden’s refusal on implementing strict lockdown might be a failure and should be evaluated.

As of 30 April 2020, the confirmed cases of coronavirus in Sweden have reached 21,092 cases with 2,586 deaths. This statistic is significantly higher compared to the neighbouring Nordic countries. In Denmark, the confirmed cases of coronavirus have only reached 9,158 cases with 452 deaths. In Finland, the confirmed cases of coronavirus have only reached 4,995 cases with 211 deaths while in Norway, the confirmed cases of coronavirus have only reached 7,738 cases with 210 deaths. The confirmed cases in Sweden are more than double the numbers in Denmark, more than four times the numbers in Finland, and almost three times the numbers in Norway. In regards to the number of deaths, the statistics of Sweden’s fatalities related to the coronavirus shows that the number of deaths in Sweden is more than five times the numbers in Denmark and more than ten times the numbers in Finland and Norway. Sweden might have a bigger population than the other three Nordic countries, with around 10 million people while compared to some 5 million living in Denmark, Finland, and Norway respectively. However, the spread of coronavirus in Sweden will still be significantly higher and dangerous even if Sweden has the same population as Denmark, Finland, and Norway. For instance, one of the factors that affect this judgment is the death rate within each country.  According to the figures from John Hopkins University, the death rate in Sweden has reached more than 22 per 100,000 people, which is significantly higher than the three other Nordic countries. By contrast, the death rate in Denmark is only 7 per 100,000 people, while in Finland and Norway is only 4 per 100,000 people.

The statistics of confirmed cases, total deaths, and death rate in Sweden may not be as high as countries like Spain and Italy. However there are various complex differences between Sweden and these countries that make direct comparisons harder. For example, Italy has a higher aging population and a higher number of smokers within the country than Sweden. Also, the statistics in Sweden should be more similar to the neighbouring Nordic countries such as Denmark, Finland, and Norway, which share many similar traits with Sweden. There must be a reason why Sweden’s statistics are significantly higher than the neighbouring Nordic countries and the most obvious one is Sweden’s refusal on implementing strict nationwide lockdown. Even the Swedish Health Agency has predicted that 26% of the Stockholm population will have been infected by May 1 if the country does not make its measure on fighting coronavirus stricter. Therefore, it is believed that Sweden should implement more restrictions as other countries in order to achieve a better situation due to the global coronavirus pandemic.