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Apr 22, 2020

No shut down: Has Sweden got it right?

Arun Ranjit
An aerial view of Sweden. Photo: BBC.com
An aerial view of Sweden. Photo: BBC.com

As the world has been fighting with pandemic coronavirus disease, making their countries lockdown saying stay home and stay safe avoiding social gatherings. The globe is triggering and authorities struggle to contain an outbreak. It’s unclear which strategy will ultimately prove most effective.

It’s been labelled risky, reckless, an outlier. Sweden has been at the centre of much debate over the past few weeks. Sweden is a Scandinavian nation with thousands of coastal islands and inland lakes, along with vast boreal forests and glaciated mountains has not ruthlessly pursued lockdown like everyone else? Is it doing the right thing?

But Sweden becomes a model and exemplary nations where the government refuses to lockdown the country even it has recorded, as of today, 15,322 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,765 people have died from the virus among the population of around 10.2 million people. And the daily life goes on as normal in Sweden.

Sweden has left its schools, gyms, cafes, bars and restaurants open throughout the spread of the pandemic. Instead, the government has urged citizens to act responsibly and follow social distancing guidelines.

And while many other countries have introduced strict laws, including hefty fines if people are caught breaching newly minted social-distancing laws, Swedes appear to be following such guidelines without the need for legislation. Well, the Swedes themselves seem to think so, with overwhelming support for their government’s decision and the advice of scientists.

Sweden having access to one of the world’s best-functioning health-care systems see a no shortage of medical equipment or hospital capacity, and tents set up as emergency care facilities around the country have mostly remained empty. Yet, hospitals in Sweden have not been overwhelmed.

The other factor is as more than half of Swedish households are single-person, making social distancing easier to carry out. More people work from home than anywhere else in Europe, and everyone has access to fast Internet, which helps large chunks of the workforce stay productive away from the office.

The impact of the coronavirus cannot simply be measured by its effect on health. Unsurprisingly, Sweden has been less damaged economically compare to other European nations.

Swedish measures are all based on individuals taking responsibility, and that is also an important part of the Swedish model.

While Sweden’s unwillingness to lock down the country could ultimately prove to be ill-judged, for now.

Does this mean Sweden will be better able to stem, stop or see less of an impact from the second or third waves when they inevitably come? We honestly do not know. It isn’t an exact science at the moment, we can’t predict the future. And it will be a long time before we can fully assess whether or not Sweden has got it right.

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