Sweden’s controversial, less-stringent lockdown has made an unlikely star of its state epidemiologist. He informed us why he nonetheless believes within the nationwide technique and why he thinks a traditional second wave is unlikely. Proportionately, Sweden has suffered many extra deaths than its neighbors. Norway has had 48 coronavirus deaths per million individuals, Finland 60, Denmark 107, and Sweden 573.
It’s unusual to have the world watching Sweden’s coronavirus technique. It’s not what usually occurs to public servants anyplace on the planet, and undoubtedly not in Sweden. And it’s additionally sort of an issue, as a result of it leaves rather a lot open to interpretation, particularly when it’s translated by totally different media sources.
Covid deaths as of August 19, 2020. Supply: WHO Dashboard
We thought-about every little thing earlier within the 12 months, together with a harsher lockdown. I believe various issues led us to stay to our unique plan. There was actually no proof exhibiting that whole lockdown was higher. We managed to maintain the rise in instances pretty low on a regular basis. So we didn’t have the dramatic adjustments in caseload that particularly the UK, but in addition the Netherlands and another international locations, had. We might present that we managed to maintain the variety of instances all the way down to a degree the place the system might carry on dealing with it.
To start with we had what we name “IKEA syndrome,” which means that our well being system was very reliant on just-in-time provide chains. Many hospitals even received provides a number of instances a day, and adequate shares didn’t exist anyplace. All the pieces was all the time “on its approach” from producer to consumer. That prompted loads of pointless issues for health-care employees. Provides arrived, however normally very, very late, in order that they had been by no means fairly positive, after they went residence within the night, if there can be any extra the following day. There was all the time protecting gear in place, however this fixed battle to pay money for different issues, I believe, actually nagged on individuals. It’s not utterly below management but, nevertheless it’s rather a lot higher now: only a few hospitals report lack of provides anymore.
Throughout our modified lockdown, Sweden elevated its ICU [intensive care unit] capability to the extent the place there are all the time at the least 20% of the beds free at any given time. After which each medical process that may very well be delayed, has been delayed.
It’s true that herd immunity has been slower than anticipated, for a number of causes. The populations we’ve been testing are most likely not very consultant of sufferers as a complete. We’ve been solely testing individuals who come into major care and so forth. Once we check in firms or individuals working in hospitals, we see a lot larger ranges of immunity. So we are actually making an attempt to place collectively this jigsaw puzzle from totally different sources of knowledge. The issue with this illness is that the unfold appears to be very patchy. Some workplaces in Sweden have 0.5% immunity; different workplaces have 20% immunity. So you really want to check lots of people.
This patchiness within the virus is known as a downside, as a result of it makes it so troublesome each to manage it and to measure and perceive it. It jumps from one group to the opposite in clusters. There was a latest outbreak within the mines up within the north [in Gällivare, in June 2020] as a result of lots of people collected in a single place. So I believe if something, we have to have some preparedness for extra of those native outbreaks—to be very a lot on our toes and to have the ability to deal with them shortly.
To some extent, migrants and refugees have been hit tougher by the pandemic. Crowdedness is one motive. And so they are inclined to work in high-contact professions. So it’s not an ethnicity downside per se. We undoubtedly see to it that the data is on the market in all the various languages of people that come and reside in Sweden today. We have now shut connections with these communities by various individuals belonging to these communities.
We nonetheless don’t, at this stage, see the apparent want for everybody to put on a masks in Sweden primarily based on the information that’s been equipped up to now. I imply, we’re every little thing and extra information that’s coming in. There is likely to be a spot for face masks at totally different instances in several populations. But it surely’s very troublesome to measure the impact of face masks in a inhabitants.
It’s troublesome to know what the long term holds, as a result of whenever you let individuals unfastened, there’s loads of temptation to go too far. That’s why we consider within the Swedish mannequin: to not have drastic adjustments in how a lot you possibly can meet individuals and so forth. For lots of the international locations opening up now, determining the best way to cease on the proper degree goes to be the large problem. I’m unsure we’re going to see your classical second wave, like in 1918. I believe we’re going to see extra native outbreaks just like the one in Gällivare.
This interview has been condensed and edited for readability.