WHO Declares Sweden's COVID Response a Model for the World

4 ¾ min

The World Health Organization (WHO) this week praised Sweden as a potential “model” for battling the COVID-19 virus sweeping nations around the world.

Sweden, unlike most other nations, has avoided the hardline approach to the novel coronavirus pandemic that has resulted in mass economic shutdowns and vast unemployment. Bars, restaurants, libraries, public pools, and most schools remain open in the nation of 10 million, which has drawn fire from critics skeptical of the state’s “laissez-faire” approach.

On Wednesday, however, the WHO’s top emergencies expert said Sweden’s social distancing policies are often misunderstood.

“I think there’s a perception out that Sweden has not put in control measures and just has allowed the disease to spread,” Dr. Mike Ryan told reporters. “Nothing can be further from the truth.”

Ryan said the biggest difference between Sweden and most nations is that the Swedes are encouraging voluntary participation with its citizens while focusing government resources on at risk populations.

“What it has done differently is it has very much relied on its relationship with its citizenry and the ability and willingness of its citizens to implement self-distancing and self-regulate,” Ryan said. “In that sense, they have implemented public policy through that partnership with the population.”

Partnership is the key word. Sweden isn’t simply issuing sweeping orders and fining or arresting those who disobey. Instead, Swedish leaders are seeking to work in cooperation with its citizenry. They are giving them information and asking them to behave responsibly.

As my colleague Dan Sanchez pointed out last week, this approach once was part of the fiber of the American system.

“Measures based on individual responsibility used to be part of the American model, too, as codified in the Bill of Rights. Yet we have developed a culture of reflexively giving up that responsibility and those rights whenever we get scared: of terrorists, of economic hardship, of a virus.”

Many seem to believe that voluntary actions are somehow less effective than government dictates, but this is simply not true. Human cooperation and voluntary action are essential ingredients to a vibrant, prosperous culture.

“The hallmark of civil society is cooperation, which is what we should all be thinking about at times like these. The coronavirus defines our collective life at present, but cooperation defines our collective life as a rule. Always,” write economist Ant Davies and political scientist James Harrigan. “When our knee-jerk reaction to immediate problems is to coerce, as is so often the case, we push the obvious solutions to our problems into the background. And still, people cooperate.”

It’s a lesson we’ve simply forgotten. As the economic destruction from our latest collective panic grows, we are seeing the price of our impulse to use raw government force as a means to an end. In the U.S. alone, 30 million of people have filed for unemployment. Food production and distribution is being disrupted; slaughterhouses are closing and stocks are being euthanized. The costs, in the US and around the globe, will be severe.

Sweden, on the other hand, has avoided some of the economic destruction other countries are facing, though like its neighbors, the nation is still projecting a contraction in GDP and increased unemployment. Importantly, however, Sweden is also wildly outperforming models predicting COVID-19 deaths. A recent study predicted that “current Swedish public-health strategy will result in a peak intensive-care load in May that exceeds pre-pandemic capacity by over 40-fold, with a median mortality of 96,000.”

As we head into May, Sweden’s COVID-19 death toll stands just over 2,500. Hospitals are not being overrun. Meanwhile Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s top epidemiologist and the architect of its COVID-19 response, tells USA Today that its capital is nearing herd immunity.

“We think that up to 25% people in Stockholm have been exposed to coronavirus and are possibly immune,” said Tegnell. “A recent survey from one of our hospitals in Stockholm found that 27% of staff there are immune. We could reach herd immunity in Stockholm within a matter of weeks.”

Sweden’s results speak for themselves, which is no doubt why the WHO this week touted the Scandinavian country as “a model” for the rest of the world as humans seek to return to normalcy.

“I think if we are to reach a new normal, Sweden represents a model if we wish to get back to a society in which we don’t have lockdowns,” Ryan told reporters.

This is not to say Sweden’s approach is without costs or tradeoffs. Nothing in life is. While Sweden’s per capita death toll is better than most of its European neighbors – France, the UK, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and the Netherland, among them – it also has a higher per capita fatality rate than its Scandinavian neighbors, Norway and Finland. It’s even possible that Sweden will reach the dire morbidity projections of the modelers, though highly unlikely.

Whatever the future holds, the world owes Sweden thanks. The Swedes have shown us a better way. They’ve reminded us that the proper role of the state is to inform individuals and work with them, to seek voluntary action and cooperation instead of resorting to blunt force and edicts.

Perhaps most importantly, Sweden showed that viruses are medical problems, not political ones. When we start to see them as the latter, everyone loses.


This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

[Image Credit: Pixabay]

Image Credit: [Image Credit: Pixabay]
Jon Miltimore

Jon Miltimore

Jonathan Miltimore is the Managing Editor of FEE.org. His writing/reporting has appeared in TIME magazine, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Forbes, Fox News, and the Washington Times.

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Today, out of all countries in the world, Sweden has the 13th highest number of deaths, many times it's neighbours. You can see live data that confirms this as it comes in - here: https://aatishb.com/covidtrends/?data=deaths&location=Australia&location=Austria&location=Belgium&location=Brazil&location=China&location=Denmark&location=Finland&location=France&location=Germany&location=Greece&location=Hungary&location=Iran&location=Ireland&location=Italy&location=Japan&location=Netherlands&location=Norway&location=Poland&location=Portugal&location=Serbia&location=Slovenia&location=South+Korea&location=Spain&location=Sweden&location=Switzerland&location=Turkey&location=US&location=United+Kingdom


Virus's are not a Medical Problem, they are in abundance in Nature and in our bodies, we are mostly made of Genomes, Microbes, Virus's etc. We as a Populous are at war with Nature, controlling and destroying therefore we are weakened too as we weaken the Biodiversity, the Air, the Soil....we are not in harmony with our Nature because we don't see ourselves a part of it rather separate. We need to strengthen our own Mind/body/spirit and these virus's won't have the effect as we are witnessing. I write this because you wrote a very effective and intelligent article, one of the best ones I've read in a long long time. Thank you......possibly research environment pollution related with health/disease.


As at 11th May 2020, Sweden had reported 3,300 Covid deaths and the UK 32,000 Covid deaths. However, comparing population size and population density for the two countries, reveals: UK 68 million and 281 people/ sq km. Sweden 10 million and 25 people/sq km. Adjusting Sweden’s deaths to “normalise” it to be equivalent to the UK’s size and density parameters gives: 3300x(68/10)x(281/25) = 253,000 (adjusted) deaths This reveals Sweden’s experiment is an unmitigated disaster. Even, the USA, who are not quite sure if they are in lockdown or not, by this measure has their current number of Covid deaths increased from 82,000 actual to 131,000 adjusted. This is almost half of Sweden’s adjusted figure. Comparing, by identical analysis, 18 Western European countries plus the US puts Sweden way out ahead of the pack for adjusted Covid deaths.


The last statement goes against your entire article. We need to work together with the medical field, not separate. That is the problem. Sweden worked together and listen to their medical experts. We need to work as a unit to move forward and show that we can be responsible and when we show that we can’t cooperate then that is Only when more rules are enforced because they can not let people do whatever they want if what they do is hurting the community and risking lives. Even Sweden knows this is not a normal situation In our world At this time, to just separate from the medical community. This is the time to work with them and listen and pay attention the most. The community needs to work together. Your last sentence is biased and a dangerous push in the wrong direction.


Or, you could stop pretending that Sweden's strategy has been successful, look at their actual mortality rates, compare it to the many times smaller number of deaths in their neighbouring countries who did shut down, and also look at the projections for spread in countries up to August based on their various responses. You definitely don't want to use Sweden as a model here - use New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, South Korea, and other places where few people died of COVID-19 and restrictions are now being lifted because they've successfully controlled it. Very strange article - this response is from a scientist in Sweden, but you can look at the data here instead of just buying opinion pieces which are wildly innaccurate. The WHO didn't actually say what is portrayed here either, they said, repeatedly "we don't know", and again advised to test, isolate, and contact trace from ALL cases - mild and severe - which Sweden are not doing. That was a criticism, not praise - selecting these particular seconds from the press meet is really, really misleading. Inform yourselves! https://covid19.healthdata.org/sweden