25 Swedish doctors and scientists Opinion contributors
Published 2:13 PM EDT Jul 27, 2020
Source: USA Today
Sweden has often been considered a leader when it comes to global humanitarian issues, regarded as a beacon of light in areas such as accepting refugees and working against global warming. In the COVID-19 pandemic, Sweden has also created interest around the world by following its own path of using a “soft” approach — not locking down, introducing mostly voluntary restrictions and spurning the use of masks.
This approach has been perceived as more liberal and has shown up in “Be Like Sweden” signs and chants at U.S. protests. Wherever measures have been lenient, though, death rates have peaked. In the United States, areas that are coming out of lockdown early are suffering, and we are seeing the same in other countries as well.
The motives for the Swedish Public Health Agency’s light-touch approach are somewhat of a mystery. Some other countries that initially used this strategy swiftly abandoned it as the death toll began to increase, opting instead for delayed lockdowns. But Sweden has been faithful to its approach.
Why? Gaining herd immunity, where large numbers of the population (preferably younger) are infected and thereby develop immunity, has not been an official goal of the Swedish Public Health Agency. But it has said that immunity in the population could help suppress the spread of the disease, and some agency statements suggest it is the secret goal.
An unnerving death rate
Further evidence of this is that the agency insists on mandatory schooling for young children, the importance of testing has been played down for a long time, the agency refused to acknowledge the importance of asymptomatic spread of the virus (concerningly, it has encouraged those in households with COVID-infected individuals to go to work and school) and still refuses to recommend masks in public, despite the overwhelming evidence of their effectiveness.
In addition, the stated goal of the Swedish authorities was always not to minimize the epidemic but rather slow it down, so that the health care system wouldn’t be overwhelmed.