The “Success” Of Sweden

Interior view of Stockholm Public Library. Photo by Marcus Hansson.

Does Sweden’s model work? Only if you’re trying to get individuals to answer “yes” to the question of “Are people foolish enough to believe a meme?”

The United States confirmed 200,000 deaths this weekend due to COVID-19. Some people are pointing to Europe as a guide to how to deal with the disease. That’s a bad idea.

European nations are seeing a second wave of cases, with daily caseloads much higher than they were in July. The UK is near its Spring / Summer peak, and rising. France is almost three times higher than its prior peak. Spain is approaching 15K cases/day, when it was previously seeing less thatn 10K at its peak. Greece, prior to early August, only had one day with more than 100 cases; now they’ve been bouncing between three and four hundred, and rising. Germany is on the rise. Belgium’s back up to its earlier peak, as is Austria. Denmark is at its highest point ever. Even Ireland and Italy’s caseloads are rising.

And then there’s Sweden. A meme is floating around that says that it’s had zero new cases. Well, that meme is a blatant lie… again, don’t believe memes. But the truth is that Sweden has been relatively stable in new cases for two months, even as other European nations are increasing.

So, did their herd immunity approach work? No. Not even close.

What we’re seeing in Sweden isn’t herd immunity. Their caseload isn’t dropping, it’s stable. What we’re seeing in Sweden is a combination of two things, one good and one bad. The bad part is that the most death-vulnerable portion of their population has already been ravaged by the disease. The Swedish retirement centers were particularly hard hit during their spike, and that damage was exacerbated by the government not getting cleaning products or ppe to those locations. When people are already dead, it’s hard to kill them again. The good part is related: personal responsibility.

Swedish citizens have adopted many of the basic rules for personal safety, not at the insistence of the government but out of a natural desire for survival. Their leadership announced a very hands-off policy, while at the same time sought to inform people about the requirements to keep safe.

Initially many people balked. Those people tended to contract the disease or have associates and relatives contract the disease. They started taking it seriously. They didn’t rely upon the government to mandate masks, seek personal distance or minimize travel; they did it themselves.

The result is that there are still few masks being worn in Sweden, but the populace is generally informed about what’s necessary for protection and they’re doing it, independent of their governments.

To a degree that’s working… in comparison to the remainder of Europe, they’ve leveled off.

If you look to Asia, however, we see two other countries, Japan and South Korea, that have had a second wave and have not leveled out but rather brought their numbers back down. When contrasted with Sweden, those two nations are successful and Sweden is an obvious failure.

One lesson to learn from the other countries is that during an emergency, reliance upon governmental authority only is a bad idea, reliance upon personal responsibility only is better… and that both together have the best result.

Another lesson is that many people, including some very bright people, let their emotions get the better of them. We’re all tired of the masks, of distancing, and especially of being alone. We’ve been paying attention for this long, and we saw the numbers get knocked down in areas, and it’s time that we had a reward for that. This reward should be normalcy… schools opening up, attendance at clubs and concerts and sporting events, restaurant gatherings. The problem is that the virus doesn’t think. It doesn’t give a remote damn if you’re tired of it, or if you want to go out, or if you think you deserve a reward. It doesn’t care that the day is just beautiful today and you want to go have a picnic with friends. The virus sees a vector and takes advantage of it, infecting others. That’s what it does, and that’s all it does.

We are where we were in April with this thing… and we can slow or stop the spread tomorrow if we so desire, if everyone follows guidelines. They won’t. Too many people are letting their emotions rule their intellect. We can’t do much to help those who are too impatient to wait another three months for a vaccine, but we can do what we can to ensure that we don’t wind up in a hospital before then.

One way we do that? Ignore memes, and be ahead of the curve on information. All of those posts I’ve done on aerosolization being the primary concern? The CDC updated its recommendations this weekend, confirming what all of the studies have said for months.

While we shouldn’t be relying on personal responsibility solely as a nation, especially not while we have a leadership which has actively promoted disinformation to the citizenry. But taking control of our individual choices can go a long way toward keeping us safe, and that’s our best available option right now.

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.