When Sweden announced their approach to COVID-19, the country was vilified in the press and among officials world-wide. The New York Times was one of the media outlets that joined in the chorus scolding the Nordic country. Now, in what could be considered eating crow, the Gray Lady has published an article essentially admitting Sweden was right.
Vilified Early Over Lax Virus Strategy, Sweden Seems to Have Scourge Controlled
After having weathered high death rates when it resisted a lockdown in the spring, Sweden now has one of Europe’s lowest rates of daily new cases. Whether that is an aberration remains to be seen.
By Thomas Erdbrink, September 20, 2020, The New York Times
STOCKHOLM — The scene at Norrsken House Stockholm, a co-working space, oozed with radical normalcy: Young, turtleneck-wearing hipsters schmoozed in the coffee corner. Others chatted freely away, at times quite near each other, in cozy conference rooms. Face masks were nowhere to be seen.
It seemed very last January, before the spread of Covid-19 in Europe, but it was actually last week, as many European nations were tightening restrictions amid a surge of new coronavirus cases. In Sweden, new infections, if tipping upward slightly, still remained surprisingly low.
“I have potentially hundreds of tiny interactions when working here,” said Thom Feeney, a Briton who manages the co-working space. “Our work lives should not be reduced to just the screen in front of us,” he said. “Ultimately, we are social animals.
”Normalcy has never been more contentious than in Sweden. Almost alone in the Western world, the Swedes refused to impose a coronavirus lockdown last spring, as the country’s leading health officials argued that limited restrictions were sufficient and would better protect against economic collapse.
Now, though, the question is whether the country’s current low caseload, compared with sharp increases elsewhere, shows that it has found a sustainable balance, something that all Western countries are seeking eight months into the pandemic — or whether the recent numbers are just a temporary aberration.
“It looks positive,” said Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s state epidemiologist, who gained global fame and notoriety for having kept Sweden out of lockdown in March.
With a population of 10.1 million, Sweden averaged just over 200 new cases a day for several weeks, though in recent days that number has jumped to about 380. The per capita rate is far lower than nearby Denmark or the Netherlands (if higher than the negligible rates in Norway and Finland). Sweden is also doing far better, for the moment, than Spain, with 10,000 cases a day, and France, with 12,000.
Critics say Sweden does not test for the virus as thoroughly as many other nations — with 142,000 tests for the week ending Sept. 13. Britain, with about six times the population, tested only 587,000 people in the most recent week, far less per capita than Sweden. And Britain conducted far more tests than France, Germany or Spain in that period.
In early September, 1.2 percent of tests in Sweden were positive, compared with about 7 percent currently in Northwest England, Britain’s hardest-hit area.
PHOTO CREDIT: Street signs outside Sahlgrenska hospital from late February telling those with potential symptoms of COVID-19 to wait outside the hospital. By BIL – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=87575709