Did Sweden’s COVID-19 Strategy Fail?

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

The Wall Street Journal reports today that experts are having second thoughts about blunt lockdowns in response to a pandemic like COVID-19:

Prior to Covid-19, lockdowns weren’t part of the standard epidemic tool kit, which was primarily designed with flu in mind….By late March, [epidemiologists] had changed their minds. The sight of hospitals in Italy overwhelmed with dying patients shocked people in other countries. Covid-19 was much deadlier than flu, it was able to spread asymptomatically, and it had no vaccine or effective therapy.

….Sweden took a different approach. Instead of lockdowns, it imposed only modest restrictions to keep cases at levels its hospitals could handle. Sweden has suffered more deaths per capita than neighboring Denmark but fewer than Britain, and it has paid less of an economic price than either, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co. Sweden’s current infection and death rates are as low as the rest of Europe’s, suggesting to some experts the country may be close to herd immunity. That is the point at which enough of the population is immune, due to prior exposure or vaccination, so that person-to-person transmission declines and the epidemic dies out.

The conventional wisdom these days is that Sweden’s moderate approach didn’t work. And it’s certainly true that their death rate from COVID-19 has been pretty high. At the same time, part of their strategy has always been to impose restrictions that people can tolerate for a very long time. This might produce higher than average death rates at first, but it might produce lower than average death rates over a full cycle of the infection, including the second COVID-19 wave expected to come in winter. So the big question is how Sweden will compare to other countries once we’ve been through that second wave.

For this reason, I remain extremely interested in the Swedish approach. It might be a failure, but I don’t think we’ll know for sure until next year.

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate