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The Sweden Experiment

Updated: Sep 15, 2021

Whilst the jury may still be out, Swedes reckon that no lockdowns led to better mental health, a healthier economy and happier schoolchildren.

Sweden's decision to eschew lockdown and leave pubs, restaurants, shopping centres and primary schools open throughout the pandemic generated furious discussion internationally, reports The Telegraph. Other Europeans watched with wildly fluctuating opinions and astonishment. Many concede Sweden has not become the cautionary tale many predicted.

Whilst millions of people across the world have been stuck at home, watched businesses go bust, and struggled to stay on top of their studies amid wave after wave of restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

But for some 10 million Swedes, the eighteen months since the first local Covid-19 case was recorded in February 2020 have been largely unremarkable. Two-thirds of people are not worried about the consequences of the pandemic for them and their family, according to the most recent opinion survey for the Civil Contingencies Agency, carried out in mid-June.

This is personified by the readers of Sweden's leading magazine who voted Anders Tegnell, the state epidemiologist who was the architect of Sweden's strategy, as "most important Swede of the year".

However, that's not to say the virus hasn't taken its toll - but the mortality rate is lower than the average for the European Union as a whole, and well below those of France, Spain, Italy and the UK.

The real benefits of Sweden’s radical strategy can be seen in the economy, the psychological impact, and in schools. Here's a brief summary:

GDP shrank by just 2.8 percent, significantly lower than the EU average of 6 percent. Furthermore, Sweden's economy has also bounced back faster than any other country in Europe.

The government avoided splashing out on costly financial-support packages, spending just $22bn (£16bn) - 4.2 per cent of its GDP. As a result, its national debt has come through the crisis almost unscathed.

The psychological toll of the pandemic also appears to have been less dramatic in Sweden. Remarkably, and perhaps uniquely, the National Board of Health and Welfare reported a continuation in the decline in the number of people seeking treatment for anxiety and depression, particularly among children and young adults.

As for educational, an analysis of national grades published by the Swedish National Agency for Education last month found no evidence that the pandemic had negatively affected children's educational attainment.

This is not to say that everywhere should have followed the Swedish strategy, as the country has about 23 people per square kilometre (about a tenth of the population density of the UK) while about half of Swedish households comprise just one person - a major factor in local transmission.


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