Government officials in Sweden announced this week that the government expects to maintain its mild restrictions on gatherings “for at least another year” to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Unlike most other European countries and nations around the world, Sweden declined to initiate a nationwide lockdown or mask mandates, opting instead for a policy that restricted large gatherings and relied on social responsibility to slow transmission of the virus.
For months, Sweden was criticized for its decision to forego an economic lockdown.
“Sweden becomes an example of how not to handle COVID-19,” CBS declared in its headline in a July article.
Sweden had become a “cautionary tale,” the New York Times declared the same month.
“They are leading us to catastrophe,” The Guardian warned in March.
Dozens of similar examples can be found. With every passing week, however, it’s becoming more clear that Sweden got the virus right. For starters, Swedish officials point out that even if lockdowns did save lives, they cannot long be endured.
“The measures that are being taken in Europe are not sustainable, we’re trying to find a level that is steady and that keeps the spread down. We can’t get rid of it, but we can keep it down at a reasonable level,” Johan Carlson, the director general of Sweden’s public health agency, said in an interview with public broadcaster SVT on Sunday.
It’s also worth pointing out that Sweden has avoided some of the economic carnage of its European neighbours experienced by implementing harsh lockdowns. In August, the BBC pointed out that Sweden’s economy experienced much less damage during the pandemic.
Both of these facts help explain why Sweden has not witnessed the widespread social unrest other nations have seen.
“A certain fatigue is setting in, this has been going on for a number of months,” Carlson admitted. “But we are not seeing anger or aggression, we’re not seeing the same reactions as in Europe.”
This should come as no surprise. Life in Sweden is still relatively normal. People never stopped going to restaurants and bars, pools or parks. Schools and places of business remained open. Hence, the mass protests, violence, and spikes of mental health deterioration, drug overddoses, and suicide nations around the world have witnessed in 2020 have been notably absent in Sweden.
Perhaps most importantly, Sweden’s “lighter touch” seems to have tamed COVID-19. While many European countries that implemented lockdowns are witnessing a resurgence of the virus, Sweden’s cases and deaths remain a stark contrast to other European nations.