Oh, I missed this thread. A few things about the whole Sweden issue have been answered already but I feel like there are a few things to address and I’m getting a bit sick of the Swedish experience being bandied around as either a TOTAL SUCCESS or HELLISH INHUMAN NIGHMARE depending on where you get your news, so I might as well use this thread to blow off some steam.
Our death numbers
Number of deaths have been consistently much higher than our neighbours. It got much better during late summer but has started ticking up again. We’re not the worst hit, but if avoiding deaths is the goal then our strategy cannot be called anything but a failure by anyone with a shred of intellectual honesty.
It’s shrunk a few percent less than other European economies, but not that much less. In large part that’s because we’re a very export focused economy so we’re going to be heavily affected by other countries no matter what we do, but we’ve certainly not saved our economy through our lax corona strategy.
Did we lock down or “keep calm and carry on”?
A little bit of both. There have been legal restrictions in place since early on putting limits on public gatherings and some other things so those claiming we’ve had no restrictions are definitely not right. Mostly it’s been recommendations, followed to varying degrees, but generally municipalities, regional authorities and work places (public and private) have had some routines in place. To give an idea, here’s what my workplace has had in effect since spring:
- Meetings have been held outdoors whenever possible, skipped or held over the phone when not possible.
- Absolutely no one can come in to work with any illness symptons whatsoever and for 48 hours after all symptoms have passed.
- Rearrangement of work spaces and the cafeteria so it’s easier to keep distance from others.
- Shaking hands is banned.
- Any work that can be done from home is done from home.
- Some people have gotten more flexible work hours so there’s less people in the building at once.
- Mandatory handwashing on arrival, before touching anything anyone else might touch, before entering the cafeteria, etc.
- Doubled the number of days we’re open for customers and extended open hours to reduce customer density.
- The number of people in contact with customers has been reduced.
All of those are put in place by the company I work for, not enforced by the government, but most workplaces have something like this in place from what I’ve seen. I do know some people who work where distancing is either not possible or much harder and some have said they feel abandoned by employers who haven’t done nearly enough, so certainly not every employer is being responsible.
Why didn’t we lock down hard?
It’s not just “they were going for herd immunity” as is often repeated, although that certainly seems to have been a hope early on. The publicly stated goals from FHM have been to keep restrictions light enough so that they could be kept in place for a long time but keep them strict enough that the healthcare system didn’t get overloaded.
There are also some limits to the sorts of restrictions the government is even allowed to implement due to our constitution and the way governance works here. Travel restrictions would have been on very shaky legal ground for starters and the right to assemble is constitutionally protected so blanket bans on gathering wouldn’t work. Some laws have been passed to increase the Government’s options but the constitution can’t be changed without holding a general election (and I personally don’t think changing the constitution to give the government more power is the way to go, nor has it been on the table as far as I’ve seen).
We also have strict laws on ministerial governance. Agencies are fairly independent from the government and ministers are very limited when it comes to dictating what agencies do. This means our public health agency (FHM) are the ones who have been in the driver’s seat for most of this, not the actual government.
Do Swedes consider our own strategy a success?
Mixed. Everyone seems to agree that the early response was a bit of a disaster. This is partly on the government and FHM, but also on the regional and municipal authorities in Stockholm which has been the hotspot throughout the entire pandemic (with a few exceptions the rest of the country hasn’t been hit nearly as hard so far). There was an enormous failure to protect elderly care homes which resulted in a lot of deaths early on, and I see no reasonable excuses for it.
The head of FHM has publicly said they should have done some things differently from the start, and there are new harsher restriction being rolled out as a response to the uptick in cases, so I think it’s pretty clear they’re at least somewhat acknowledging that previous measures have not been enough.
Personally I think a lot more could have been done though I’m not convinced that complete lockdown with sweeping legal restrictions would necessarily have been the way to go (or even possible for aforementioned reasons). I heard some aquiantances in Australia describe practically being under house arrest and that frankly sounds way too extreme. But more extensive, clearer and more forcefully communicated recommendations from the start would likely have helped. There definitely should have been more leaning on municipalities to tighten routines and protect vulnerable people. Municipalities hold most of the administrative power over areas that affect people’s daily lives and many have not done nearly as much as they could have.
There’s also been a sluggishness and resistance on the part of FHM to reevaluate methods and strategy that definitely hasn’t helped.
So, all in all I think holding up Sweden as a success story is just dumb. You have to seriously cherry pick your data to make us look good, especially compared to our most similar neighbours like the other Nordic countries and Germany. But we also haven’t just been rolling our thumbs and done nothing, and some claims I’ve seen like we’re all heartless and indifferent to people dying are frankly insane.
Yeah, more or less the same here in Göteborg. I feel like people were generally good about respecting each other’s space and generally being responsible until the end of summer, but I’m getting increasingly annoyed as more and more seem to have just given up and don’t care anymore. I’m noticing it at work as well, which is worrying since I can’t avoid that. I honestly thought we’d be at least a little better than this.
Luckily I have the luxury of being able to walk nearly everywhere so I can almost entirely avoid public transport. I haven’t been to the city centre in over 6 months and I do most of my shopping late in the evenings or very early morning so I can avoid crowds.
They should keep their kids away from other people for the sake of other people. I used to work in child care, I like kids, but parents are often the worst.