Why do scientists (and many journalists writing about it) hold up Sweden’s do-nothing herd immunity approach to COVID-19 as a model where “we have much to learn from them”, while the early “do nothing” approaches of the US, UK, and other countries is universally condemned?
Is this another case of blindly idealizing Scandanavian solutions – “if Sweden does it, it has to be good”, or is there a method to the madness that seemingly works in Sweden, but not under similar conditions in other nations?
Who exactly are these experts that are promoting Sweden as a model? Their numbers are worse than all the other Scandinavian countries.
They have more deaths per capita then Denmark, Norway or Finland, and more death total than all of them put together.
And there a plenty of Swedes who are quite unhappy with their government’s approach. Here’s a little excerpt from today’s Coronavirus thread on the Sweden subreddit:
Translation: “Is there a single position that the public health authority has been almost / alone with where it turned out they were right and the rest of europe was wrong yet? haha, what a fucking failure this is about to be.”
I think Sweden thought it had a couple of advantages that would let a light touch work. A large portion of their population can work from home and live in single person households. Not sure whether that’s a “Scandinavian” thing or not.
Not to be too cold, but I’m glad a few countries are taking different tacks. I trust expert opinions but you don’t see too many opportunities for a real worldwide “experiment”. The UK was planning a light touch as well, so purposely gave themselves a late start on the clampdown plan. Sweden doing its thing. Brazil being ridiculous. We should have some real data for planning best practices in the future when a really scary virus breaks out.
A herd immunity strategy isn’t “wrong”. It might have been a reasonable approach if the hospitalizations weren’t so high. And while I don’t have much hope in this direction, it could end up that Sweden will end up with a similar per capita death toll at the end of the year as its neighbors.
That’s why the ‘best practices have to be implemented’ part is important.
It can’t be “let the virus roam mostly free and we’ll pick up the pieces after”. That’s not best practices. It’s almost textbook negligence.
Herd immunity as a strategy is fine, but it has to be properly managed and is very difficult, as you still want to find the balance point between allowing some infection but not allowing so much that your health services are overwhelmed. Sweden didn’t have a herd immunity ‘strategy’. They had a herd immunity ‘pipe dream’ they hoped would work out.
Considering how little was known about the virus early on, especially how easily it could be transmitted, it was going to be even more difficult. Sweden erred on the wrong side of that balance, which people tend to find less forgivable than erring on the cautious side and gradually lifting aggressive restrictions.
Sweden wasn’t even approaching this with “do-nothing”, it was “we don’t need to make emergency orders, we can just do recommendations and us community minded Swedes will do social distancing all without and order and even better than other countries”. They were wrong, but it wasn’t. In neighbouring Scandinavian countries the only praise for that approach came from the “we can’t break the economy”-crowd, everyone one else were in the “Oh, I hope that doesn’t turn out super bad for them!”-category.