Is Sweden’s COVID-19 Approach the Right One? What 1 Expert Thinks

COMMENTARY Public Health

Is Sweden’s COVID-19 Approach the Right One? What 1 Expert Thinks

May 1st, 2020 2 min read

Commentary By

Doug Badger

Visiting Fellow, Domestic Policy Studies

Norbert J. Michel, Ph.D. @norbertjmichel

Director, Center for Data Analysis

A senior couple eat dinner keeping distance n April 18, 2020 in Ostersund, Sweden. David Lidstrom / Contributor/ Getty Images

Key Takeaways

The U.S. and many European nations have introduced widespread social distancing and “stay at home” orders. 

But Sweden has largely eschewed social distancing, choosing instead to permit more normal levels of economic and social interaction. 

It’s vital that the public scrutinize current public health policies and examine the evidence as it becomes available.

The spread of COVID-19 has created a serious public health challenge for governments throughout the world, but several countries have responded differently. 

The U.S. and many European nations, for instance, have introduced widespread social distancing and “stay at home” orders. 

South Korea, the country that has shown the most success at reversing the course of the pandemic, has relied on aggressive public health interventions, such as temporary isolation and contact tracing, with only limited resort to social distancing. 

>>> When can America reopen? The National Coronavirus Recovery Commission, a project of The Heritage Foundation, is gathering America’s top thinkers together to figure that out. Learn more here.

But Sweden has largely eschewed social distancing, choosing instead to permit more normal levels of economic and social interaction. 

Other experts have argued that the disease spreads in exactly the same manner regardless of the mitigation approach, and some favor a completely different “controlled avalanche” approach that encourages young people to quickly develop immunity through voluntary exposure to the illness.

It will certainly take some time for the international data to definitively say which approach is best, but it seems that very few people want to have a healthy debate over the costs and benefits of those approaches.

In the U.S., criticism of social distancing and shutdowns is often misconstrued as advocating for tens or even hundreds of thousands of deaths. 

Aside from the fact that these death tolls are based on uncertain statistical modeling, the choice is not between maintaining current policies and doing nothing. The choice is between maintaining current policies and doing something that may be more effective. 

It’s vital that the public scrutinize current public health policies and examine the evidence as it becomes available. Only a robust debate can produce the best public policies. 

In an interview posted April 17, one of the world’s leading epidemiologists, Johan Giesecke, gave a very blunt assessment of why he thinks Sweden’s approach is the right way to attack the COVID-19 problem. 

The interview was with UnHerd.com, a U.K.-based outlet dedicated to providing “a platform for otherwise unheard ideas, people, and places.” Listen to Giesecke’s “unheard ideas” for yourself here: “Swedish expert: why lockdowns are the wrong policy.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal