The past few months have been heavy on the shoulders of Europe and its leaders. As of now, four countries in Western Europe (Spain, Italy, France, Germany) have overtaken China in terms of the number of overall cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus, with Italy as the number one country worldwide in terms of deaths from the virus at more than 17,500. And into Scandinavia, countries like Denmark and Norway have closed down all establishments, ranging from schools for students up to 16 years, kindergartens, bars, restaurants, and other businesses. However, a peculiar approach has been taken up in these countries’ next-door neighbor: Sweden. In a surprise move, the Stockholm government had decided to keep all establishments open.
There remains a sense of normality across the country despite the presence of more than 8,000 cases. In the nation’s capital Stockholm, and other cities such as Malmö and Gothenburg, officials work to protect the most vulnerable whilst exhibiting more lax behavior in terms of doing their best to slow the spread of the virus as activities continue like normal.
“We all, as individuals, have to take responsibility. We can’t legislate and ban everything.”Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven
The kingdom’s prime minister, Stefan Löfven, defended the decisions to not implement tighter restrictions like that of his neighbors. “We all, as individuals, have to take responsibility. We can’t legislate and ban everything,” Löfven said. He added “it is also a question of common sense behavior.”
The government’s state epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, told the Associated Press’s David Keyton that even if the moves uptaken by Sweden were an anomaly, they are more, “sustainable and effective in protecting the public’s health than ‘drastic’ moves like closing schools for four or five months.”
Sweden’s policies toward the virus have now become a slap in the face towards other nations. India’s 1.3 billion strong population is subject to lockdowns enforced through police brutality, shaming and locking people up. Germany banned crowds of two or more people who are not families, Britain has deployed police to remind residents to stay home, and Italy’s mayors have gone viral for patrolling the streets and yelling at residents to stay home. The reason for this approach is rooted in public responsibility, according to Mr. Tegnell. In an article by the New York Times, Mr. Tegnell claims that is how Sweden works. “Our whole system for communicable disease control is based on voluntary action. The immunization system is completely voluntary and there is 98 percent coverage,” he explained.
Many scientists have taken up qualms with the laissez-faire approach, especially considering the numbers Sweden faces in comparison with its Nordic neighbors.
Many scientists have taken up qualms with the laissez-faire approach, especially considering the numbers Sweden faces in comparison with its Nordic neighbors (The country is facing even worse fatalities, per capita). In comparison, Sweden suffered from 687 fatalities, whilst Denmark faces 218 and 93 in Norway (as of April 8).