I’m especially anxious to see how historians of the future assess the current U.S. and global firestorms over how best to handle the CCP Virus. If the past is any guide, major questions are likely to emerge about the current “pro-lockdown” conventional wisdom, and I feel particularly confident about this because so many major questions have already popped up despite powerful pressures to toe the line. Some of the latest, and most puzzling, concerning Sweden’s anti-virus strategy.
In case you’ve missed it, a broad consensus has formed that the Swedish approach, which has so far avoided the economy curbs and even comprehensive social distancing and mask mandates imposed at various times by most other countries (except, of course, on a nation-wide basis, the United States), has failed dismally. (See, e.g., here.) And the data seems to confirm strongly this verdict on the Swedish alternative, which relies overwhelmingly on voluntary compliance with recommend behavior changes.
According to the reliable Worldometers.info website, Sweden’s infection and death rates per million residents (34,418 and 770, respectively) are not only on the high side for Europe and the world generally. They’re also a good deal higher than those of their Scandinavian neighbors, which have taken much more restrictive approaches.
As for its economic performance, Sweden’s output outlook for this year (an officially forecast decline of 2.9 percent) is better than those of Denmark (a 4.5 percent drop according to this private sector forecast) and Finland (a 4.7 decrease according to its central bank), but not as good as Norway’s (whose government expects 1.6 percent growth). So it’s far from obvious that Sweden has made the right tradeoff economically speaking.
But further examination reveals two other reasons for Sweden’s CCP Virus record that don’t track with the pro-lockdowns conventional wisdom. First, the country’s officially appointed independent virus commission just reported that fully 45 percent of Sweden’s virus deaths have occurred among residents of nursing homes and other elder care facilities. That share – as high as at least one major estimate for the United States – makes the case not for comprehensive lockdowns as the best CCP Virus strategy, but for focusing protective measures on especially vulnerable segments of the population like seniors and especially those no longer able to live on their own.
The second reason? Sweden’s strenous efforts to keep its borders open. Foreign entry into Sweden hasn’t been entirely free since the virus struck. And most of Europe reopened over the summer to varying extents. But travel into Sweden has been consistently easier during the CCP Virus months than has been the case for the rest of the continent, even though some curbs have recently been added.
It’s enough to make you wonder: Would Sweden have found the optimal combination of anti-virus measures had it not only refrained from the sweeping lockdowns, and masks and distancing mandates, but sealed its borders more tightly and focused on protecting its nursing homes? And has that been the best U.S. anti-virus strategy all along?