World Responses To COVID-19: Sweden

May 8, 2020

We’re continuing our series on how different countries approach COVID-19 and are looking at Sweden this week, which made a few somewhat surprising choices in dealing with the pandemic.

via @Freepik

Sweden’s history began when polar ice caps melted almost 14,000 years ago. Although historically associated with the Vikings—people known for their skillful sailing and trading across the region—modern day Sweden, with its nearly 221,800 islands, is known, among other things, for its welfare programs and low pollution levels.

When COVID-19 first arrived in Sweden on February 4th, the Swedish Public Health Authority decided to take a different route than other countries in Europe. Perhaps most surprising is that there is no official lockdown for the country’s residents. Authorities are not requiring citizens to shelter in place, but they are asking residents to maintain social distancing norms. And if you imagine shuttered stores like most of us have seen in the US, there’s a surprise there too: All businesses have remained open, and children are still in school. Sweden has also moved away from testing anyone with COVID-19 symptoms to testing only senior citizens or those with respiratory health issues. So why has Sweden made such different choices than most other countries? Well, authorities in Sweden believe that a lockdown won’t effectively combat the virus, and they also think that less strict regulations might be easier to adhere to long term than more stringent rules.

The number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase in Sweden, especially among senior citizens. As of May 5th, Sweden reported 23,918 cases and over 2000 deaths. Even though authorities are sticking with their more relaxed approach, Sweden is now focused on protecting its senior citizens.