Can we finally admit that the Sweden experiment was a failure?

Four. Iceland is a Scandinavian country.

We’d be happy to. Which features are important and what weights do want us to give them and why?

Which countries would those two statements represent? Neither describe anything close to Sweden, so I’m not sure why that matters in this thread. You do realize that the entire premise of this thread is about measuring Sweden’s performance, correct?

Sure, most countries have learned a great deal during this pandemic. Sweden seemed to avoid learning as much as possible.

You think we still aren’t sure if masks and social distancing have a positive outcome?

In early 2020, we were told to wait a year before judging how Sweden would fare. We waited a year. They fucked up.

Have a look at figure 2 from this cite:

This just relates to mask wearing and not other lockdown stuff, but you can clearly see that in some countries the mandates had almost no effect because either the people were already masking, or they weren’t masking and kept on not masking after the mandate.

For example, in the Netherlands the mask wearing was extremely low - both before and after the mandate. Switzerland had low levels of mask wearing before the mandate, a slight uptick afterwards, but they never even got to 50%. In Greece mask wearing peaked long before the mandate then began to decline and the decline continued after the mandate.

On the other hand,the UK already had roughly 70% mask wearing before the mandate, and it didn’t change one bit after the mandate came into effect.

We have debated how ‘stupid’ Texas and Florida were to end their mandates. But then it became confusing when their numbers didn’t spike. Welll, that chart may give us an answer: Regardless of the actions of the government, the people of Texas had very high masking rates before there was a mask mandate, and although the chart doesn’t show the result of the mandate ending, it’s possible they just went on masking anyway.

To be clear, the paper I cited says that mask wearing is effective, but mandatng the wearing of masks may not have been much help since the societal propensity to wear masks is only weakly correlated with mandates. People just figure it out on their own. It’s more of an emergent effect when some social risk line is crossed

Again, what in the world does that have to do with this thread? Did Sweden have either strict mandates with no compliance or no mandates but high usage? I’ve not seen it.

Sweden isn’t there, because with no mandate at all they didn’t fit the study. But some of the countries they are being compared to are.

The point is that mandates don’t tell the whole story, and may even be misleading. Some countries with mandates had much lower levels of mask wearing than countires without.a mandate. Defining ‘good’ and ‘bad’ countries by whether they had mandates or not misses all this. The Netherlands had a mask mandate, and never got more than 10-15% of the population to comply. The UK had 70% wearing masks without a mandate.

The real comparison should not be countries with mandates vs countries without, but a straight up comparison of mask wearing rates, regardless of mandates. Sometimes a mandate might help get the people there, and sometimes they don’t need the help (or won’t comply anyway). And sometimes the mandate does get more people to mask, but they still don’t mask at the rate of other countries without mandates.

If all else is equal, would you expect high mask wearing to equate to better, identical, or worse COVID outcomes for a country?

Why are you asking that? I have said many times that mask wearing is effective, and went to the trouble of pointing out that the study I linked to clearly shows that mask wearing is effective. You appear to be attempting to argue things I never remotely claimed.

Again, my point is that if you are only looking at the axis of government mandates or not, you are missing a hell of a lot of relevant information.

So your point is that a government mandate, if ineffective in getting people to mask up, will be ineffective in lowering COVID rates?

…some context is in order.

Back at the start of the pandemic, Sweden was held up by many as the “country to follow.” And in New Zealand there was (and continues to be) a very vocal lobby group that insisted that the NZ strategy was wrong and that we needed to follow “successful” countries like Sweden.

This editorial column by Damien Grant in August 2020 exemplified this.

Just a reminder that this article was written in August 2020. The failures (mentioned by some in this thread) in rest homes were highlighted front and center. Nearly a year ago today the death toll from Covid in Sweden was 6000.

That figure is now 14,615.

The figure has more than doubled.

In the same time period New Zealand lost only three people. Three.

We’ve had multiple community outbreaks that got stomped out through a combination of measures, border controls, managed isolation, limited local lockdowns, gold-standard contact tracing, genomic sequencing, the ability to ramp up and process testing, effective public health messaging, and most importantly of all…keeping politics out of the Covid decision-making process.

And we did all of that with the minimum of disruption to every day life. I live in Wellington, and since the first Level 4 Lockdown back in April/May last year we have only ever escalated to Level 2 a couple of times here (which essentially meant no gatherings of over 100 people) and that never lasted longer than a week. We’ve had about 3 escalations to Level 3 in Auckland but that’s about it. People sometimes wear masks on public transport but nowhere else. We are expected to use the Covid app on our phones to “scan in” to every place we visit: but this isn’t mandated.

We had to reinvent how we did everything for this to happen. Our entire tourism industry had to pivot. Hotels had to be repurposed into Managed Isolation facilities that had the added benefit of keeping those who worked at those hotels, employed. Two weeks mandated stay in a fancy hotel was the price we paid for keeping Covid at bay.

So no, I don’t think that predominant attitude in all these debates should be humility. I don’t think we should ever forget how badly almost every country bungled the handling of the pandemic.

And in particular, Sweden should be highlighted because of the unique nature of its failures. Look at the language that Charlie used earlier in the thread.

I can’t imagine looking at the high death toll and thinking that concern fo the “embarrassment” of the authorities and politicians would be anywhere near my list of priorities. And this:

These failures were well known enough that we were writing about them here in NZ in August last year. So what went wrong here? How did nearly another 8000 people die when you already knew that there had already been a “total failure of care for the elderly?”

A lot of it can be laid at the feet of Tegnell. But not all of it. There were fundamental failures in strategy, fundamental failures in governance, and fundamental failures to hold those responsible to account.

I think that it’s really silly to argue that " it isn’t always clear what the correct approach is at any given time." I think the “correct response” has been staring at us the entire time but had been muddied by disinformation campaigns and propaganda, a lack of leadership, corruption, confusing public health messaging and media constantly looking for a “new angle on a story.” It isn’t any one thing. It’s all the things. And to see it all play out…and to see it all continue to play out whilst we sit on the sidelines…is simply heartbreaking.

What?? Why don’t you stop looking for what you think I must be thinking and actually read my words? My point is simple: Looking at mandates without looking at whst the population actually did is going to be misleading if you are trying to determine the effectiveness of masking, since clearly the mandates only correlate weakly with mask wearing. If you want to determine the effectiveness of masking, whether there was a mandate or not appears to be a lousy lens to look through. Some regions with mask mandates had less than 20% of the population wearing masks, while some with no mandate at all had 90% masking.

This isn’t an argument against anything except bad data choices. For example, some conservatives used South Korea’s example of a country with no mandate but with little in the way of outbreaks. Then later on they brought in a mandate and cases went up a bit. This was used as an example of why masks aren’t necessary.

But as this paper shows, South Korea was heavily masked right from the beginning, and the mandate didn’t change a thing. So the variation in cases before and after the mandate was likely just the natural progression of the virus. So the claim on the right that South Korea’s results were evidence that masks didn’t do anything was wrong.

I’m sure similar errors were made in the other direction as well. The point is that you make these kinds of errors by focusing on the wrong variable.

To understand the effectiveness of masking, you should look at the rate of mask use in a population and compare that to the infection rate, and not whether there was a mandate. If you want to understand the effectiveness of government policy, then looking at mask use before and after the mandate will give you information about that, but not whether masks are effective.

New Zealand as an isolated island nation was able to close itself off to the world. But being really smart I’m sure they used the opportunity to vaccinate the population, right? Because otherwise, New Zealanders have no herd immunity at all and as soon as they let the world in could see an explosion of Covid. But for countries that can do it, locking completely down while you bust your ass to vaccinate everyone seems like a plausible strategy. Without the vaccination part, locking down would just delay the inevitable explosion of cases once the lockdowns end. So have you got the population vaccinated?


Lets get this out of the way first.

Because I’ve been hearing the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

“An isolated Island nation.”

We aren’t an Island nation. We are an archipelago.

We are just as isolated as the United Kingdom. We are just as isolated as Hawaii, that has had 38,000 cases and 521 deaths. We are just as isolated as Fiji which is in the middle of an outbreak now where the 7-day case average is over a thousand and they’ve had 146 deaths.

Being “isolated” doesn’t mean squat if you have an outbreak in the community. The pandemic doesn’t care. You either have to have systems in place to stamp it out or you don’t.

And being at the ass-end-of-the-world does make it easier to do some things but it also makes it harder to do others. Our supply chain has a great big ocean in the middle of it. We nearly ran out of testing reagent in the early days of the pandemic and it is a constant battle to get almost anything here.

Here’s the truth: completely reinventing how your society works over the course of a couple of months isn’t easy.

I love it that you’ve set this up as some sort of a “gotcha.”

If it were April 2020, when we were hearing stories about the man in Italy who had spent days with his dead mother in the house because the system was so overwhelmed that nobody could come to get her, if you had told me then that by the end of 2021 in New Zealand our vaccination programme was over and that everyone who wanted the vaccine was fully vaccinated, I would have taken it with open arms.

And in July 2021 my opinion hasn’t changed.

Our vaccination strategy is robust. Unlike most other countries we didn’t have to use emergency use authorization: instead we went through all the normal processes which took a bit more time. We initially were going to use a couple of vaccines but we changed to just one, Pszier.

New Zealand bought enough doses of vaccine to fully vaccinate Tokelau, the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu. We have finished fully vaccinating Niue (2 doses, 100% of eligible population), have nearly finished vaccinating the Cook Islands (with many of the Islands at 100%) and we are starting with the others as we speak.

We are vaccinating ahead of the vaccination schedule, and the ramp-up that was scheduled for July is well under way. And if we keep to that schedule that will mean that everyone who wants a vaccine will have one by the end of the year.

So have we got our population vaccinated? Not yet. But neither has almost anywhere else in the world. Except Niue. Hesitancy rates are very low here. The last survey was that well over 85% of people wanted a vaccine. And in Niue when they got to 97% of people that last 3% decided they wanted the vaccine as well so they got it. We will probably see the same turn around here.

We are just in two very different head-spaces when it comes to the pandemic. This isn’t a fucking competition. When I point to the public health failings of Sweden it isn’t because I want to “jump up and down” and declare victory. Its because thousands of people are dead that didn’t have to die, and that we are at a point where the mere existence of vaccines have led many to declare the “pandemic over”. In reality, we are at a point of uncertainty, where things are substantially better than they were at the peak of the Christmas surge, but things aren’t over yet. Stuff like “Freedom Day” are not going to help. We won’t know what impact that will have until about a month from now.

You talk about humility and then proceed to dismiss our pandemic response because we were just an “island nation.” I just don’t get it. Do you want humility, or do you want something else?

Everyone can’t be in the first billion to vaccinate. The COVID Zero countries were outbid or outmaneuvered by countries that had much more pressing need to guarantee first supply because of acute outbreaks. Every shot NZ is getting is going into arms as promptly as in other countries.

I just looked. New Zealand has a vaccination rate of 18.4% with one dose, and only 12.8% with two doses. In the meantime, the Delta variant may be especially hard on unvaccinated people. I wouldn’t declare victory yet.

What is the reason for the low rate of vaccination in New Zealand? This may be an example of why these are ‘wicked’ problems. If your lockdowns are too effective, the people or government don’t feel the urgency to vaccinate, and you wind ip getting clobbered anyway.

That’s happening all over. Half the people get vaccinations, causing cases to drop, then the people yet to be vaccinated put it off because the problem seems to be solving itself. Win on one dimension, and the other dimensions get harder.

Perfect example of a ‘wicked’ problem. If your lockdowns are too effective you go to the bottom of the list for vaccines, leaving your population exposed longer and forcing you to maintan very expensive lockdowns.

I don’t have a better solution. I’m not criticizing anyone, other than the people who think there are simple and obvious solutions to the problem.

…I’ve outlined our vaccination plan already. Nothing about a lack of urgency to vaccinate. As Shalmanese outlined in his post vaccines are being injected as fast as they are arriving. We are ahead of schedule and if we keep to schedule everyone who wants a vaccine will have one before the end of the year.

We aren’t in lockdown, we haven’t had a nationwide lockdown since May last year, and we haven’t has a local lockdown more stringent than Level 3 since May last year either.

How did we get stuck on mandates being an issue when we’re discussing Sweden? Seriously, take me back to your first post in this thread and tell me who you’re responding to.

…I’m not intending to pick on Sam here, but I think that this little exchange here really sums up everything wrong with the discourse about covid.

I mean, to a degree it actually is about humility. Are people able to put aside their pre-conceptions and assumptions in order to see if there may be a better way to do things?

Apparently not.

It wasn’t New Zealand’s elimination strategy that has kept our death toll to only 26 people, that has stomped out several community outbreaks (since our initial lockdown in May) and stopped us from having any cases in the community (excluding the border) in months. It wasn’t that at all.

Apparently It’s because we are a “small, isolated island.”

Comparing and contrasting what NZ did with Sweden can be instructive. We can see three very clear divergence of strategy at the outset of the pandemic. Most of the world tried to flatten the curve, or a suppression strategy. New Zealand initially went with “flatten the curve”, but the numbers presented to the Prime Minister from modelling showed that flattening the curve was not going to be enough to stop our hospitals being overwhelmed. So we pivoted to an elimination strategy.

The third group of countries went with a hybrid protect the vulnerable / learn to live with the virus approach. The thinking behind the third approach is that you investing in protecting the most vulnerable will allow the rest of the economy to keep open.

The flaw in learn to live with the virus is that the very nature of Covid-19 makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to wall off everyone with comorbidities from the rest of society. Even in New Zealand, with the focus on elimination, nearly all of our deaths were in resthomes.

And the thing to remember is that society is essentially a chaotic, dynamic system. And just like a butterfly flapping its wings in Siberia could cause a tornado in the American South, mass deaths in resthomes in Sweden can have cascading effects in other parts of society.

I think that comparing Norway (suppression), New Zealand (elimination) and Sweden (live with it) can be instructive in learning what works and what doesn’t. I think even an examination of the differences between how Prime Minister Ardren handled Covid and how Premier Berekiklian is handling the current outbreak in NSW can teach us a lot as well.

But what isn’t helpful is to simply dismiss everything that New Zealand did on the basis that it was easy because we are a small isolated island. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The pandemic isn’t over. You can’t both state that “you don’t have a better solution” on one hand then dismiss possible better solutions with the other.

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We have?