Are we controlling for other differences such a population density, average age of the population, etc?
Also confusing the issue is that mandates != compliance. In most countries the mandates to wear masks and social distance lagged behind the population’s choice to either wear masks or not, and in most places it appears the mandates actually had little effect because the population was already doing it. It’s very confusing to compare a country with mo mandate but high levels of mask wearing anyway to one that has a mandate with poor compliance.
Also, before using neighbor comparisons to condemn anyone, it would be interesting to see if there are wide disparities like this between other countries that both had mandates. For example, the U.S. and Canada had similar lockdown policies, but our infection and death rates were dramatically different. Is it because Canada’s population is healthier? Or because we don’t have as many gigantic cities? Or is it something else we can’t see?
My opinion is that the predominant attitude in all these debates should be humility. This pandemic has been surprising to everyone on a number of fronts. It’s a complex adaptive system, and it isn’t always clear what the correct approach is at any given time.
For example, it appears to me that now we know it is airborne and not just spread by droplet, our whole approach to mitigation should have changed, but didn’t. All,the money and effort spent on plexiglass shields and wiping down surfaces would likely have been mich better spent on better ventilation and air filtering. Super spreaders might be avoided more by avoiding enclosed spaces with poor ventilation than with general social distancing requirements. But we all get stuck in patterns and practices, and political polarization makes it impossible to have reasonable discussions about alternatives.
It’s made much worse when as soon as the right people decide the ‘truth’ is known, opposing voices are actively censored on the internet. Given how much of the early ‘truth’ about the pandemic turned out to be wrong, this is dangerous.
We aren’t going to know exactly what worked and didn’t work until this pandemic has run its course. We are still in the thick of it, and decisions that look bad today might look prescient tomorrow. That could mean Sweden will look better, or it could confirm that they were wrong.