The world watched in awe as the Swedes carried on with their normal lives while the rest of us are mandated to stay indoors and wear masks in public places.
At the height of the pandemic, photos of Swedes in restaurants, beaches, and bars circulated the social media drawing envy from extroverts who have been restricted from outdoor activities. In the US, no more schools, birthday parties, football games, and concerts.
Business as usual. Sweden enjoyed their freedom even on the onslaught of the pandemic. Schools, shops, and restaurants remained open. Unlike in other countries where people get arrested, Swedes can choose whether to wear face masks.
Sweden’s strategic approach was seen as an immunity plan.
At first, the consequence of freedom costed a higher per capita death rate than in other Nordic neighbors – Denmark, Finland, and Norway. By mid-April, the country recorded 100 deaths daily while cases dropped in several European countries.
The death toll surged mainly in nursing homes where the elderly are more at risk with the coronavirus.
However, as the second wave of the pandemic hits Europe, Sweden seems to have been spared. The country only has 14 patients in intensive care units, and with significantly low COVID-19 cases.
The government only imposed a maximum of 50 people in gatherings. Schools of over 16-year-olds were shut down, but the schools of younger ones remained open.
As of September 24, 2020, the European Center for Disease Control reported that Sweden has a 36.8 new 14-day cumulative number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people. The number is significantly lower than Spain, which recorded 320, France with 204.5, 81.8 in the UK, and 99 in Denmark.
A European official from the World Health Organization said the world could learn a lesson from how Sweden managed the pandemic.
“We must recognize that Sweden, at the moment, has avoided the increase that has been seen in some of the other countries in Western Europe,” said Catherine Smallwood, a WHO Europe’s senior emergency officer.
However, a Sweden chief epidemiologist, Dr. Anders Tegnell, says it’s still too early to tell – referring to whether Sweden is succeeding the second wave battle. Tegnell concerns over the re-opening of high schools.
Contrary to popular opinion, the Swedes’ daily life has likewise drastically changed. While the government did not mandate its people on lockdowns and face masks, the residents voluntarily observed such guidelines.
Face masks pose a false sense of security on untrained personnel, health officials say. A more reliable guideline would be to stay home when having symptoms on COVID-19, observe social distancing in public, and maintain proper hand hygiene.
Sweden’s approach to the pandemic at first was controversial, yet, earns center stage when its herd immunity plan seems to work in the second wave.