As countries around the world went into lockdown to flatten the COVID-19 curve back in March, Sweden took a more relaxed approach: Citizens were asked to stay home and avoid others who might be high-risk, while schools, businesses, and gatherings were largely unaffected.
Sweden now has almost 10 times as many COVID-19 cases as neighboring Norway. In addition to more than 70,000 cases, over 5,000 Swedes who tested positive for COVID-19 have died, roughly 20 times Norway’s 250 fatalities. At a press conference this week, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven acknowledged the failings of his government’s no-lockdown approach.
“We have thousands of dead,” he said on Wednesday, adding, “Now is the question of how Sweden should change, not if.” According to Business Insider, Prime Minister Lofven has also launched an investigation into the country’s COVID-19 response strategy.
Chief Swedish epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, was behind the approach. The idea was to protect Sweden’s vulnerable population while herd immunizing Swedes at large. This, Tegnell argued, would better position the country in the event of a second wave.
Instead, Sweden’s approach revealed “shortcomings” that Prime Minister Lofven is eager to better understand. Among the problems with the Tegnell’s initial reasoning is that herd immunity would require some 60 percent of Swedes to develop antibodies to protect against future infections. As of May, that figure is only at 7.3 percent in Stockholm. Other issues resulted from Sweden’s equally relaxed attitude toward testing.
Prime Minister Loften will begin his probe by looking into why roughly half of Sweden’s COVID-19 deaths occurred in nursing homes, disproportionately hurting the vulnerable elderly population that the Swedish government issued its early measures with the intent to protect.