Sweden’s approach to COVID-19 has been radically different from other countries in Europe — and much of the rest of the world. Instead of enacting strict lockdowns, the country encouraged its citizens to take personal responsibility for managing the virus, resulting in open shops and inconsistent mask use.
On first glance, Sweden has fared better than their European peers. According to the independent health news site Dagens Medicin, compared to the years 2016-2019, the country recorded 7.9% greater excess deaths in 2020. Sweden has the 23rd lowest annual excess deaths out of 30 European countries — faring better than the UK (15.1%), France (10.4%) and Spain (18.9%). However, Sweden also has one of the highest transmission rates in Europe. Only its well-funded healthcare system and comparably sparse population has stopped infection rates from skyrocketing to levels found in Italy or Britain.
Now Stockholm has become a haven for young people across Europe trying to escape strict lockdowns.
Did Sweden’s COVID strategy work? Is there anything we can learn from the Swedish approach — either what to avoid or what to mimic?