When economies around the world started grinding to a halt in an effort to stop the carnage inflicted by the coronavirus, Sweden stood out with an approach that appeared to defy the prescription of most experts. Instead of shutting down, the Swedish government opted for much milder measures. The idea looked appealing. It suggested the possibility of containing the pandemic at a much lower economic cost.
The final judgment on Sweden’s unorthodox approach cannot be rendered until the crisis moves into the history books. So far, however, the statistics suggest that the Swedish model is more disaster than panacea. If the pandemic ended today, the actions of Swedish authorities, which have so far earned the support of the population, may ultimately be viewed by future generations of Swedes as a shameful chapter in the country’s history, one that resulted in large-scale suffering and thousands of unnecessary deaths.
That would be a shift from the initial reaction to news that Swedish schools, restaurants and shops remained open under the guidance of state epidemiologists. When the “Swedish model” started making waves beyond the country’s shores, observers’ skepticism was leavened with hopefulness, as evidence of an impending global economic depression was emerging.