- Dec 11, 2018
As many public spaces throughout Europe empty out—with citizens only leaving home for essential groceries or medication—life in Sweden is carrying on, mostly as usual. Children walk to school while adults meet up for dinner at their local bar. Only the vulnerable have been advised to isolate and some are working from home. Yet in Sweden, where there are 9,141 confirmed cases and 793 people have died, experts worry weaker measures may be leading to a more severe outbreak in the country of just 10 million citizens.
Sweden has a relatively high case fatality rate: as of April 8, 7.68% of the Swedes who have tested positive for COVID-19 have died of the virus. Neighboring countries, like Norway and Denmark, have case fatality rates of 1.46% and 3.85% respectively. (The U.S. case fatality rate is 3.21%.) While Sweden’s elevated case fatality rate could be a result of its low testing rates compared to its neighbors, experts say Sweden’s laissez-faire approach could also be to blame.
Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s chief epidemiologist overseeing the government’s response to COVID-19 has said the government should allow the virus to spread slowly through the population, an approach initially employed by the United Kingdom and the Netherlands before both countries rapidly changed strategy amid mounting evidence that this approach would still overburden health care systems. Tegnell told Swedish TV on April 5 that COVID-19 could be stopped by “herd immunity or a combination of immunity and vaccination.” (A vaccine for COVID-19 is likely at least 14 months away.)
A head doctor at a major hospital in Sweden says the current approach will “probably end in a historical massacre.” He says healthcare workers at his hospital who have tested positive for the virus but are asymptomatic have been advised to continue working. He asked to remain anonymous because “it is frowned upon to speak of the epidemic or to go against the official vision” but said he felt a need to speak out from an “ethical and medical point of view.”
Sweden's Relaxed Approach to the Coronavirus Could Be Backfiring
The Nordic country has a much higher fatality rate than its neighbors