New data from Europe suggest Sweden’s laissez-faire approach to the pandemic was far from catastrophic.
Few people in 2020 came under more heat than Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s top epidemiologist.
But the man who forged Sweden’s laissez-faire approach to COVID-19 early in the pandemic says new international data reveal a hard truth about government lockdowns.
“I think people will probably think very carefully about these total shutdowns, how good they really were,” Tegnell told Reuters in a recent interview. “They may have had an effect in the short term, but when you look at it throughout the pandemic, you become more and more doubtful.”
Tegnell was referring to data published by Reuters that show Sweden, which shunned the strict lockdowns embraced by most nations around the world, experienced a smaller increase in its mortality rate than most European countries in 2020.
Preliminary data from EU statistics agency Eurostat compiled by Reuters showed Sweden had 7.7% more deaths in 2020 than its average for the preceding four years. Countries that opted for several periods of strict lockdowns, such as Spain and Belgium, had so-called excess mortality of 18.1% and 16.2% respectively.
Twenty-one of the 30 countries with available statistics had higher excess mortality than Sweden. However, Sweden did much worse than its Nordic neighbours, with Denmark registering just 1.5% excess mortality and Finland 1.0%. Norway had no excess mortality at all in 2020.
For nearly a year, Sweden was at the forefront of the debate over how governments should respond to the coronavirus.
Reports last April showed that despite widespread criticism for not embracing a full government lockdown, COVID-19 had reached what Tegnell described as a “plateau” in Sweden.
“If Tegnell’s characterization turns out to be true, it will be quite a vindication for Sweden, which has been widely denounced for bucking the trend among governments of imposing draconian ‘shelter-at-home’ decrees that have crippled the world economy and thrown millions out of work,” Bloomberg reported.
Months later, data showed that Sweden had successfully “flattened the curve” in contrast to many other global hot spots.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=feeonline&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-1&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1282470983094251520&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Ffee.org%2Farticles%2Fsweden-saw-lower-mortality-rate-than-most-of-europe-in-2020-despite-no-lockdown%2F&siteScreenName=feeonline&theme=light&widgetsVersion=e1ffbdb%3A1614796141937&width=550px
Many critics countered by comparing Sweden’s death rate to its Nordic counterparts Norway and Finland, which had some of the lowest mortality rates in Europe. Norway and Finland, however, embraced policies even less restrictive than Sweden’s for most of the pandemic.
Public health experts in Sweden say the latest data are further evidence that Sweden was one of the few nations to get the virus right. “Some believed that it was possible to eliminate disease transmission by shutting down society,” said Johan Carlson, Director, Public Health Agency of Sweden. “We did not believe that and we have been proven right.”
The Dark Side of Lockdowns
Pandemics are awful and COVID-19 is a nasty virus. (I had it recently myself, and it was no picnic. I was severely sick for days.) But lawmakers around the world made two severe miscalculations when they decided to discard fundamental liberties and embrace lockdowns.
First, they concluded that they could contain a virus through central planning. They failed—as numerous academic studies show.