A more relaxed approach to combating the coronavirus pandemic has been adopted by Sweden even as most of its European Union peers have imposed severe restrictions on public life and closed down borders to businesses to prevent the spreading the pandemic.
Neither borders nor schools have been closed down in Sweden, unlike its immediate neighbors Denmark, Finland and Norway. It the country has also not stopped non-essential businesses from functioning as well as not banned the gathering of more than two people, as has been done by the United Kingdom and Germany.
The Public Health Agency of Sweden is majorly responsible for the management of the outbreak in the country. The approach that has been taken by the country to combat the coronavirus threat, which is very different from those taken by its international peers, is based on its confidence on its citizens about the maintenance of and adoption of voluntary, softer measures to prevent and delay the spread.
There has however been criticism of this apparent laissez-faire approach by Sweden from both inside the country, from a group of epidemiologists, as well as from other nations that have imposed strict restrictions on [public life to prevent te spread of the virus.
Even though the approach adopted by Sweden was different from many of the other countries, the ultimate aim was the same, said the Public Health Agency’s lead epidemiologist, and a key figure in Sweden’s national response to the coronavirus, is Anders Tegnell.
“My view is that basically all European countries are trying to do the same thing — we’re trying to slow down the spread as much as possible to keep healthcare and society working … and we have shown some different methods to slow down the spread,” he said in a television interview.
“Sweden has gone mostly for voluntary measures because that’s how we’re used to working,” Tegnell added. “And we have a long tradition that it works rather well.”
The need for social distancing in light of the coronavirus spread had been explained to the population “and so far, it’s been working reasonably well,” he said.
According to the latest data from the Public Health Agency of the country, there have been 3,700 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 110 deaths due to the virus so far.
In comparison, more than 100,000 confirmed cases have been reported from Italy, the current epicenter of the virus pandemic in Europe, along with more than 10,000 deaths according to the latest data from the country. On the other hand, the second most affected country in Europe is Spain with almost 80,000 confirmed cases and 6,500 deaths.
“The incline (in infection and death rates) in Sweden is less steep than in many countries and that’s exactly what we’re trying to achieve,” Tegnell said, and added that the agency’s approach is supported by the majority of Swedish people according to opinion polls.
However, imposing of stricter measures was not ruled out by Tegnell in the eventuality of a sharp growth in cases. He said that in such a situation, the government and Public Health Agency would have a “big discussion on what other measures we can take.”
(Adapted from CNBC.com)