by WorldTribune Staff, April 21, 2020
Taking a different approach to the coronavirus crisis than its Scandinavian neighbors, Sweden has left its schools, gyms, cafes, bars and restaurants open throughout the pandemic. The government is relying on citizens to act responsibly and follow social distancing guidelines.
Most limitations announced by Swedish authorities are no more than recommendations. Anyone displaying the symptoms characteristic of the coronavirus is asked to stay home, but other members of their family are not restricted from going to school or showing up for work.
Public transportation is operating, though people are encouraged to use it only when absolutely necessary. Sweden’s borders are open.
As of Sunday, Sweden had reported 1,540 deaths tied to the coronavirus, an increase of 29 from Saturday. That’s considerably more than in the rest of Scandinavia, but much less than in Italy, Spain and the UK.
“The trend we have seen in recent days, with a more flat curve — where we have many new cases, but not a daily increase — is stabilizing,” Karin Tegmark Wisell, head of the microbiology department at Sweden’s Public Health Authority, said on Friday. “We are seeing the same pattern for patients in intensive care.”
Anders Tegnell, the architect behind Sweden’s relatively relaxed response to the coronavirus, told local media the latest figures on infection rates and fatalities indicate the situation is starting to stabilize.
“We’re on a sort of plateau,” Tegnell told Swedish news agency TT.
“Like everyone, we are trying to slow down the rate of infection in order to avoid a situation in which too many patients will have recourse to the medical system at the same point of time,” Tegnell said. “The differences derive from a different tradition and from a different culture that prevail in Sweden. We prefer voluntary measures, and there is a high level of trust here between the population and the authorities, so we are able to avoid coercive restrictions.”
Sweden’s coronavirus strategy has won the approval of its citizens.
“I have very high confidence in the Swedish authorities that manage this,” Volvo Cars CEO Hakan Samuelsson said. “It’s a hard balance to strike, but I have full confidence in the measures that Sweden has taken.”
Volvo, which was forced to halt production across Europe and furlough about 20,000 Swedish employees, will resume production at its Swedish plants on Monday.
“Our measures are all based on individuals taking responsibility, and that is also an important part of the Swedish model,” Samuelsson said.
Sweden’s approach to the pandemic will likely result in a smaller economic contraction than the rest of Europe is facing, according to HSBC Global Research economist James Pomeroy.
“While Sweden’s unwillingness to lock down the country could ultimately prove to be ill-judged, for now, if the infection curve flattens out soon, the economy could be better placed to rebound,” Pomeroy said.
While its approach is different than other European nations, Swedish officials pushed back against the notion that there’s little to no social distancing going on.
“We don’t have a radically different view,” Foreign Minister Ann Linde said in an interview with Radio Sweden. “The government has made a series of decisions that affect the whole society. It’s a myth that life goes on as normal in Sweden.”