A team of scientists from Sweden’s leading medical institutions has urged the American public to “stick it out” until there is a vaccine and not attempt to handle the COVID-19 pandemic the Swedish way.
25 Swedish researchers have warned Americans of the risks that could ensue from the Swedish coronavirus response strategy in an opinion piece in USA Today.
“Sweden’s approach to COVID has led to death, grief and suffering. The only example we’re setting is how not to deal with a deadly infectious disease,” the signatories, all PhDs at Sweden’s leading universities, caution the US.
The researchers urge US policymakers to “learn from Sweden’s mistakes”, as its “soft” approach with no no lockdowns, mostly voluntary restrictions and no obligatory use of face masks, while perceived as more lenient and liberal, has led to peaking death rates.
According to the signatories, attaining herd immunity in the population in a way that could potentially suppress the disease, which they suggest may have been Sweden’s strategy in denial, is the wrong way to go. They cited the executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme Dr. Mike Ryan as condemning the herd immunity strategy as “very brutal arithmetic that does not put people and life and suffering at the centre of that equation”.
Regardless of whether herd immunity is a goal or a side effect of the Swedish strategy, it didn’t work out well, the researchers wrote, citing Sweden’s own Public Health Agency, according to which the proportion of Swedes carrying antibodies has been estimated at under 10%, which is “nowhere near herd immunity”.
The signatories also cited Sweden’s “unnerving” death rate, which is even greater than in the US (556 deaths per million inhabitants versus 425), as well as a death toll more than four and a half times greater than that of the other four Nordic countries combined.
“We do believe Sweden can be used as a model, but not in the way it was thought of initially. It can instead serve as a control group and answer the question of how efficient the voluntary distancing and loose measures in Sweden are compared to lockdowns, aggressive testing, tracing and the use of masks,” the researchers reasoned.
In conclusion, they urged the American public to “stick it out” until there is a vaccine and new medical treatments that improve the prognosis and “don’t do it the Swedish way”.
However, Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, who is credited with the country’s strategy, maintained that survivors of COVID-19 get immunity.
“We do not see any people who fall ill twice with COVID-19. Therefore, our assessment is that if you get COVID-19, you become immune,” Tegnell said at a recent press conference, suggesting that this reduces the risk of infection to close to zero.
All in all, Sweden has seen over 78,500 cases and over 5,650 deaths, most of them above the age of 75. Unlike its neighbours, where only odd cases are being registered every day, Sweden registers dozens of new cases every day.