By Clara Prander ’22
While many countries imposed nationwide lockdowns and curfews to fight the COVID-19 pandemic Sweden had a different way of responding. An international perception has been that Sweden is aiming for herd immunity, but according to their State Epidemiologist, that is not the strategy. Why did Sweden choose not to close down?
The government of Sweden took a lenient approach, only pursuing strategies such as social distancing, bans on larger gatherings, and travel restrictions. One of the reasons they didn’t impose nationwide lockdown is because according to the Swedish constitution, such an act is considered a violation of Sweden’s freedom of movement. The Swedish laws on communicable diseases only allow for quarantining individuals and small areas such as buildings, not entire geographical areas. Although the Government was later granted more authority, instead of inserting restrictions, they relied upon and trusted every Swede to act responsibly and follow the health authorities’ guidelines.
Sweden also chose not to close preschools and elementary schools, which was met with criticism even within Sweden. The government argued that many parents, including health-care workers, would have no choice but to stay home from work to take care of their children if the schools were closed. They wanted the children’s parents to go to their work and help instead of having to be home with the children. Additionally, there were concerns about school closure having negative consequences for disadvantaged and vulnerable children, and yet there was no evidence of children playing a major role in the spread of the virus.
In May, the Swedish state epidemiologist said the decision was right, as the healthcare system would not have managed the situation if Swedish authorities had chosen to close elementary schools. He later said that the decision to close secondary schools might have been unnecessary because it possibly had little effect in slowing the spread of the disease.
Even though Sweden has received some criticism about its strategy, WHO (World Health Organization) actually thinks that Sweden has done something right. They highlighted Sweden’s virus response as a model that other countries should follow. Dr, Nabarro, one of WHO’s special envoys, said: “In Sweden, the government was able to trust the public and the public was able to trust the government.”