Sweden no longer the outlier

Unherd reports:

Few now remember that for most of 2020, the word “experiment” had negative connotations. That was what Swedes were accused of conducting when we — unlike the rest of the world — maintained some semblance of normality. The citizens of this country generally didn’t have to wear face masks; young children continued going to school; leisure activities were largely allowed to continue unhindered.

This experiment was judged early on as “a disaster” (Time magazine), a “the world’s cautionary tale” (New York Times), “deadly folly” (the Guardian). In Germany, Focus magazine described the policy as “sloppiness”; Italy’s La Repubblica concluded that the “Nordic model country” had made a dangerous mistake. But these countries — all countries — were also conducting an experiment, in that they were testing unprecedented measures to prevent the spread of a virus. Sweden simply chose one path, the rest of Europe another.

The hypothesis of the outside world was that Sweden’s freedom would be costly. The absence of restrictions, open schools, reliance on recommendations instead of mandates and police enforcement would result in higher deaths than other countries. Meanwhile, the lack of freedom endured by the citizens of other countries would “save lives.”

They predicted 96,000 dead in Sweden.

Throughout the spring of 2020, Sweden’s death toll per capita was higher than most other countries.

But the experiment didn’t end there. During the year that followed, the virus continued to ravage the world and, one by one, the death tolls in countries that had locked down began to surpass Sweden’s. Britain, the US, France, Poland, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Spain, Argentina, Belgium — countries that had variously shut down playgrounds, forced their children to wear facemasks, closed schools, fined citizens for hanging out on the beach and guarded parks with drones — have all been hit worse than Sweden. At the time of writing, more than 50 countries have a higher death rate. If you measure excess mortality for the whole of 2020, Sweden (according to Eurostat) will end up in 21st place out of 31 European countries. If Sweden was a part of the US, its death rate would rank number 43 of the 50 states.

This doesn’t mean that New Zealand should have gone down the Sweden route. Out approach was generally the right one for us, as a distant isolated island. We have had only a few dozen deaths. But when you compared Sweden to other countries in Europe, their approach doesn’t seem to have made them worse off.

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