A few months ago the world was looking askance at Sweden. Whilst most countries, both in Scandinavia and the rest of the world, enacted legislation to order an emergency lockdown to control the COVID-19 pandemic, Sweden carried on pretty much as normal. Swedish gyms and restaurants ran business as usual, and even nurseries and schools kept their doors open. The only restrictions the country put in place were a limit on the size of gatherings (a maximum of fifty people) and a ban on visits to care homes. Initially, the enactment of this unusual policy, suggested by the country's chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, saw soaring case numbers and was greeted by the world's concern. The New York Times even went so far as labeling Sweden as the 'pariah state'.
Early predictions forecast the country to have overflowing hospitals and a death rate in the hundreds of thousands, but was never the case. Sweden has had a much lower death and hospitalisation rate than the UK and other European countries. By paying an early price, Sweden hoped to achieve a herd immunity and has seemingly achieved just this, as any second wave in the country looks to be small. The economic benefits of not having locked down are also become apparent, as Sweden's GDP has fallen less than its neighbours and looks to bounce back better than them in 2021. The task force set up by Donald Trump to control Coronavirus in the United States, now cites the Swedish approach as the model for all countries to follow.
The question left for many is how did Sweden achieve this in the face of global panic over this virus? The answer seems to lie in the high levels of trust between the Swedish people and their government. Whilst many Swedes did stay largely at home during the height of the pandemic in March and April, daily life was not disrupted and nor were face masks encouraged. Although America might admire Sweden's results when battling the virus, without the same level citizen faith in state, the policy is unlikely to be as successful when exported to other countries.
Students applying for medicine may wish to study the concept of herd immunity further. Those looking to make applications to Economics courses might be interested in studying the global recession caused by the pandemic.