The Corner


Checking In on Sweden’s Approach to the Pandemic . . .

A person wearing a protective mask collects coronavirus self tests from people in cars at a testing site in Malmo, Sweden, November 27, 2020. (TT News Agency/Johan Nilsson via Reuters)

When you write about the coronavirus pandemic, and your sense is that the seriousness and severity of the pandemic is being underestimated in certain corners of the U.S., you inevitably are greeted by a cavalcade of “but what about Sweden?” responses. Back in September, I noted that this Scandinavian nation has caught the imagination of quite a few voices on the right, with a belief that somehow Sweden cracked the code and figured out just the right approach to the pandemic. The widespread perception in some circles on the right is that Sweden enacted few restrictions on citizens’ lives, kept the caseload low, minimized the damage to the nation’s economy, and achieved herd immunity.

None of these assertions are exactly accurate; some are less accurate than others. The Swedes enacted quite a few restrictions on daily life, the country’s case load and number of deaths were pretty high compared to their neighbors, and their economy is doing only slightly better than most European countries.

Last September, I wrote: “Perhaps if the situation in other European countries and the U.S. gets worse in autumn, Sweden will have something of the last laugh.” Alas, Sweden hasn’t had a good autumn and early winter, with cases and new deaths rising again. Right now Sweden ranks 28th in the world in cases per million people, and 24th in the world in coronavirus deaths per million people.

Now, the king of Sweden has declared his country’s approach to the pandemic is a failure:

“I believe we have failed,” the king said in an excerpt from the programme broadcast by SVT on Wednesday. The full show airs on Dec. 21.

“We have had a large number of deaths and that is terrible. That is something that brings us all suffering.”

Sweden has registered more than 7,800 deaths, a much higher per capita rate than its Nordic neighbours but lower than in Britain, Italy, Spain or France, which have all opted for lockdowns.

Many Swedes have lost faith in their country’s approach to the pandemic. Somehow, I suspect Americans who spent 2020 insisting Sweden had the right answers will avert their eyes from the latest developments. Or maybe they’ll insist the king of Sweden just doesn’t know what’s good for his people.


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