Because of its tax-financed health care, long vacations, and parental leave policies, Sweden has long been viewed by liberal Americans as a model. For this reason, some Americans have speculated that the Swedish way of handling the pandemic must be another example of enlightened thinking. Paradoxically, in recent weeks many on the American right have also pointed to Sweden, thinking that it is showing unexpectedly good sense.
However, the impressions created have been largely misleading. ...
Sweden has otherwise chosen much the same approach to the pandemic as other countries. ...
Already before the crisis Sweden’s medical system suffered egregiously from queues and severe and increasing understaffing. Like most countries, it was very poorly prepared for a pandemic. Luckily, the worst did not hit Sweden until about a month later than in Italy. Sweden used the respite to reorganize its medical system. All non-urgent operations were cancelled, parts of ICU wards reserved for Covid-19 patients, and field hospitals set up with whatever equipment could be gathered quickly.
Today, with ever new virus patients needing care, hospitals are strictly prioritizing ICU treatment, excluding, for example, patients over the age of eighty and other high risk groups. To ensure that ICU beds are available to new virus patients hospitals are struggling to keep beds unoccupied. Shortages of test kits, face masks, and other protective clothing, etc. remain a huge problem. In proportion to its population Sweden has had about the same death curve as most other Western countries (excepting those that locked down before the epidemic became endemic).
You can see from this why Swedish doctors say they're being pressured NOT to do tests to confirm whether or not a death is due to Covid19. If no test is performed, it is presumed to be non-COVID related. And high risk groups are being excluded from treatment. Sounds like the Swedes learned their statistics from the Chinese.
Sweden has a very large elderly population. The death toll in elder-care facilities and among the old in immigrant families has been excruciating. Medical and social workers, who realize that they may be asymptomatic shedders, do not want to perform work without protective clothing, but all such materials are reserved for those treating confirmed cases. Many Swedes are horrified, especially as the government claimed from the beginning to be focusing its strategy on protecting the most vulnerable, the elderly.
Nevertheless, in this country, where public television and radio wholly dominate reporting and opinion-molding, the general population has all along been very favorable to the CHS. Criticisms of measures taken or not taken have been quickly made the object of media and public outcry.
The effect of virus-fighting efforts on the Swedish economy has been devastating. A very large number of small businesses have collapsed. All but essential industries closed down almost immediately and many face bankruptcy. People have been told to refrain from all non-essential travel. Virtually all air travel has been suspended. Unemployment figures are soaring. The opposition parties deem government counter-measures to be too little too late. They are also mainly in the form of interest-bearing loans that are not offered with any expectation that they will be forgiven. Hence companies are fearful of applying for support. Many suspect that some measures are a back-door to socializing large private companies.
Contrary to impressions created in American media, Sweden’s approach to handling the pandemic has not been “relaxed,” but essentially the same as in other Western countries. This country of 10 million has been at least as preoccupied with the pandemic as other countries. Whether its approach has been as efficient remains to be seen. What may stand out as exceptional in the end is Sweden’s glaring lack of preparedness for a pandemic, especially for protecting its elderly, and that the dead are disproportionately recent immigrants.