DETROIT – From the very beginning of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, while countries around the world were closing down to flatten the curve, Sweden took a different route.
Rather than lockdown, they instituted what has been called a “soft-touch” strategy -- with very little in the way of restrictions.
There are reasons their approach can’t be compared to Michigan’s. Sweden has a population of about 10 million people, which is similar to the population of the state of Michigan. They’ve had less than 6,000. Michigan has had about 7,000. While they numbers alone may make it look like their approach worked -- it’s not that simple.
While most of the world closed down, life in Sweden continued mostly restriction-free. They did limit gatherings to less than 50 people, and early on, universities and high schools closed to in-person activity. Daycare and elementary schools remained open. People went on with life using guidelines on distancing and working remotely.
Their approach was to simply let the novel coronavirus run its course with minimal intervention in the hope that eventually most of the population would develop immunity. That was meant with heavy criticism, especially as their policy exacted a disproportionate toll among the elderly.
In more recent weeks though, there has been a reversal, many countries in Europe -- like the U.K., Spain and France -- are seeing a distinct increase in cases and deaths while Sweden isn’t.
It’s too early to say whether that means Sweden’s approach was correct, but comparing them to their closest neighbor -- Norway -- gives a sense of how much better they could have done.
Sweden has seen more than 9,000 cases-per-million people compared to Norway at 2,500 cases-per-million. Sweden has seen 583 deaths per-million-people. Norway has only 50 deaths-per-million.