A new study suggests that Sweden’s limited lockdown measures have resulted in fewer deaths than expected.
Sweden’s softer approach to lockdown involved closing universities and other schools for older pupils and recommending that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms and everyone over 70 self-isolate.
Now, a new study suggests that these limited measures contributed to fewer deaths than expected. Still, Sweden saw more deaths from the pandemic than neighboring countries Denmark and Norway.
The new research, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, makes clear the complexity of determining which strategies for reducing the spread of the virus and saving lives are most effective.
The sudden emergence and rapid spread of SARS-CoV-2 and the accompanying disease COVID-19 have forced governments across the world to quickly decide which measures to implement to protect their populations.
Because the virus was new, governments relied heavily on computer models to determine the best courses of action. Even with these models, a significant number of unknowns made making any decision with certainty difficult.
Nonetheless, many governments followed a broadly similar approach, mandating significant lockdowns of large sections of society. Authorities typically ordered people to stay at home as much as possible and gave police powers of enforcement.
An outlier to this approach was Sweden. Rather than enforcing a hard lockdown, the Swedish government only closed universities and other schools with pupils aged 15 and older. It also recommended that everyone older than 70 and anyone with symptoms typical of COVID-19 self-isolate.
Given the major economic and social cost of a hard lockdown, there has been much interest in Sweden’s approach. Because the virus is highly infectious and, in serious cases, causes death, it was a controversial approach.
Now that the first wave of the pandemic is receding, researchers have been able to look back at the choices that governments have made to get a better sense of their effects.
Dr Andrzej Jędrzej Samosiuk