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Sweden’s COVID-19 strategy is not a herd immunity strategy. It isn’t. Stop saying it is.

As a Swede, I feel I have to comment on the Swedish COVID-19 strategy after a whole year of negative articles about my homeland. I know this blog is about wildlife and my photography primarily, but I see so much news about my homeland. Gleeful news about “failed herd immunity strategy” and smug comments about Sweden being the worst one out there. It’s frustrating to see mainstream media motivated by the preferred policy (i.e. lockdowns) rather than an evaluation of a balanced dataset.

A poster of Dr. Tegnell, in Stockholm. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP via Getty Images

Media then remains silent whenever Sweden is doing well relative to other countries, and they go on overdrive whenever recent data emerges which could be used to show Sweden in a poor light. ( I suggest reading the Evening Standards article for some comments on Sweden in a more positive light. Or Unherd.)


Let me be clear; Sweden (like the UK) talked about herd immunity in the beginning, yet it has never been the strategy. I’ll say it again: Sweden’s COVID-19 strategy is not a herd immunity strategy. It isn’t. Stop saying it is. Here are the rules, which have been in effect the whole summer:

  • Visiting old folks homes? Banned

  • Large gatherings? Banned. (Note that Donald Trumps Tulsa rally would not have been allowed in Sweden – regardless of how many of his freaks thinks it would’ve have been.)

  • Gatherings for religious practise? Banned.

  • Theatrical, Cinema and concerts? Banned.

  • Work from home? Encouraged

  • Masks? Recommended at all times in close quarters.

  • Short term work and financial support for companies? Yes – more than most countries.

Did Sweden close restaurants and lock down the entire economy? No, nor did South Korea, Taiwan or Japan. They have fared better, due to more testing and better tracking than Sweden – but overall, adjusted for the testing and tracking which Sweden failed at, the strategy has been the exact same strategy as Korea or Japan.


So why the smugness from foreign western news? Well, I believe it’s because a lot of them are political – and they fear the strategy rolled out by their own supporting parties is not popular, so they will have to point at someone having another strategy saying; Look how terrible Sweden is, if we did it like the dumb Swedes we would be in hell! They couldn’t do that with South Korea or Japan, given they’ve fared tremendously better than anyone. It gets a bit silly, because the only way journalists’ relentless admonishment of Sweden can have traction is to cherry-pick data by comparing it to only THREE other countries; the Nordic countries, while conveniently ignoring dozens of other European countries. For the people assuming that Sweden is more similar to the Nordic countries than the other European countries in terms of population characteristics – I suggest a GMU working paper entitled “16 Possible Factors for Sweden’s High COVID Death Rate among the Nordics”, which undermines the suitability of the Nordic countries as benchmark to evaluate Sweden.


So, is Sweden the worst country in Europe? Did it fail? It only failed in being the best country in Europe, but it’s far from the worst one. And that’s what I don’t understand – what conclusion does lockdown political biased media want to say in Europe by bashing the Swedes? Does the fact that Belgium, Spain, UK, Italy and France fared worse than Sweden imply their strategy is inferior to Sweden’s? If not, why does the fact that Sweden’s mortality rate is (marginally) above the Netherlands, Switzerland and some other European countries imply the Swedish strategy is inferior?

Data from Worldometers

Where did Sweden fail? Old people... For 30 years, the state budget has been cut, and shifted away from the long standing strong protection our old. The people that built the society that gave me a free university education, made it so I never have to be afraid of being homeless and stood strong against foreign dictatorships helping to bring down apartheid in South Africa, stood up for the Vietnamese in the 70s, and is not afraid of calling out Russia and China when they are being dicks are being shoved away, “optimized” and forgotten. It all properly begun after the Swedish financial crisis in 1992, which sparked massive experiments in privatization and budget cuts to education and elder care, and since then it’s only gotten worse. By Tegnell’s own admission, we failed to protect our elderly care homes which accounted for a large portion of the COVID deaths – and this was our biggest mistake, one made by many other countries, including the United Kingdom.


So there it is, Sweden should’ve done a better job over the passed 30 years to protect the old. Swedens image has taken a beating due to foreign media, because it did not fit their bias. On balance, Sweden has patience, knowing that in the history books, – was not the worst, nor the best at handling this. Much like everything else in Sweden, it was a calculated, somewhat cold (from a non-Swedish perspective), consensus balance act. This is who we are, the Swedes.


So Italians, Germans, Brits, French people - just because that long lockdown earlier in the year now has proven to be useless (or else we wouldn't have these peaks no?), own up to saying that your strategy wasn't perfect rather than going bashing Sweden to divert from your own failings.

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