Experts analyze measures: This verdict is an investigation into Sweden's Corona special route

Sweden is going through the pandemic with a completely different strategy than most countries.

Experts analyze measures: This verdict is an investigation into Sweden's Corona special route

Sweden is going through the pandemic with a completely different strategy than most countries. There is always scientific criticism of this. An analysis of Sweden's special path shows that the country made a lot of mistakes and paid a high price for it.

Sweden is going through the corona pandemic with a special path that has been discussed repeatedly and controversially. There is now a scientific assessment of the measures that the country has taken to deal with Sars-CoV-2.

The analysis comes from the epidemiologist Nele Brusselaers, who researches and teaches at the Karolinska Institutet. Together with peers, she explored the extent to which Sweden had a pandemic strategy before 2020, whether that strategy was based on science, and how it was implemented and incorporated into policy-making during the pandemic. The study, based on official papers, emails and studies, was published in the journal Humanities and Social Sciences Communications.

In the study, which deals exclusively with Sweden and does not draw any comparisons to other countries and their measures, Brusselaers and her team have concentrated on the year 2020 and come to a devastating verdict. Accordingly, the Swedish special way was "characterized by a morally, ethically and scientifically questionable laissez-faire approach". The researchers come to this assessment after examining the pandemic strategy on four levels: the country’s pandemic readiness, the assessment of the various actors in the pandemic, with regard to errors and inconsistencies in the recommendations and notifications and taking into account the consequences for the country healthcare and society.

The scientists estimate that Sweden's perception as a liberal country was more important than an evidence-based approach or saving and protecting human lives in the event of high corona incidences. In 2020 alone, the number of deaths in Sweden rose to a level ten times higher than in other Scandinavian countries such as neighboring Norway. As of March 30, 2022, according to data from the Swedish Ministry of Health, there were 18,365 deaths related to corona disease in Sweden. That is 178.55 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. For comparison: In Norway it is 46.83 per 100,000 inhabitants.

According to the research team, Sweden was well prepared for a possible pandemic when the corona virus appeared and was able to build on many years of trusting cooperation between politics, administration and research. The country is prosperous, with an educated population that trusts state bodies. In addition, the health authorities had prepared plans for various scenarios. Despite this, hardly anything was used or implemented.

"The handling of the pandemic in Sweden was completely dominated by the health authority," says the analysis. Nevertheless, in the summer of 2020 there was only one official crisis management plan, from the Ministry of Justice. The main aim was not to spread fear and panic, to prevent social unrest and to keep the effects of the pandemic policy on industry, business and hospitality to a minimum. However, the health care of the population, capacities of the health system or measures for infection control were not discussed.

The Swedish pandemic strategy, which was later officially referred to as a "non-strategy", aimed at "natural" herd immunity and avoiding a social shutdown despite the large number of infected people. In fact, in March 2020, Sweden only banned public gatherings of more than 500 people, later more than 50 people. The schools remained open, digital or distance learning was only available for older pupils and students. Overall, recommendations and voluntary measures remained, legal restrictions and the associated regulatory measures such as fines were dispensed with, regardless of the respective incidences.

The researchers are particularly critical of the fact that scientific findings and conclusions have been discredited by government agencies. They write: "The Swedish people have been kept ignorant of basic facts such as airborne transmission of Sars-CoV-2, the fact that asymptomatic individuals can be contagious and that face masks protect both the wearer and others." Sweden only recommended the use of face masks or protective clothing in hospitals and nursing homes from June 2020, including when treating and caring for Covid 19 patients.

The role of children in the infection process has also been downplayed. Internally, they have been included in deliberations on achieving herd immunity, while publicly claiming that "children play a negligible role in transmission and do not get sick". In addition, although sufficient oxygen supplies were available, many older people were given morphine instead. As a result, their lives were "effectively ended". People with severe courses sometimes did not receive appropriate health care, and people with concomitant diseases were less likely to receive optimal care.

The researchers also see it as particularly problematic that it was claimed in Sweden that the measures taken there did not differ from those in other countries. "Even after national and international criticism and condemning official assessments of the 'failed' Swedish strategy by various (international) committees and working groups, no drastic changes occurred." Even then, scientific evidence continued to be ignored.

To date, there is no open, democratic platform for making policy decisions or "changes in responsibilities in the public health agency or government due to their inaction or suboptimal and unscientific/unprofessional ways of working." The scientists conclude that if Sweden wants to do better in future pandemics with a similar number of infected people, scientific methods will have to be reestablished.

They recommend the creation of a separate, independent institute for the control of infectious diseases. Most importantly, they advise "embarking on a self-critical process about one's political culture and the lack of accountability of decision-makers to avoid future failures like those encountered in the Covid-19 pandemic."

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