The Real Reason Sweden Won't Go On A Coronavirus Lockdown

COVID-19 has spread like biological wildfire across the globe. When actual wildfires feast on the forests of California, firefighters try to starve the flames to prevent its spread, per the BBC. That normally entails burning down surrounding trees or bulldozing them. A similar logic applies to halting the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19. Only, you can't flatten the curve by flattening a person with a bulldozer. Fortunately, America's Smokey the Epidemiologist, Dr. Anthony Fauci says you can prevent the viral fire from spreading through social distancing. In fact, Axios reports that Fauci said rigorous social distancing could reduce the projected deaths from between 100,000 and 200,000 to 60,000.

Various countries and municipalities have enforced social distancing by imposing lockdowns, locking out people from other places and telling residents to stay locked inside. The Spanish town of Zahara de la Sierra kept its official number of coronavirus cases at zero by closing off most of its entrances, having people deliver medicine and groceries to ensure more people stay indoors, keeping people indoors, and even implementing disinfection checkpoints.

But not every country has been on board with such measures. The world's Scandanavian meatball mecca, Sweden, has refused to play ball, opting not to lock down parts of the country. Why aren't the Swedes sweating coronavirus as much as some other places?

A Swedish fishy strategy

Everybody knows Sweden is a neutral country, but you might expect them to make an exception to join other nations in declaring all-out war on a pandemic. Unlike Denmark, which proactively declared a lockdown before it even recorded its first coronavirus-related fatality, per Business Insider, the Swedish government insists its citizens will enforce social distancing voluntarily. Furthermore, the Guardian reports that the nation's top epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell (above), argued that the transmission could be mitigated by allowing the virus to spread gradually across the population.

You might interpret Tegnell's position as a strategy to build herd immunity, though he has reportedly refused to use that specific framing. In the early going of the pandemic, the UK explicitly adopted a policy of herd immunity, which epidemiologist William Hanage initially assumed was satire because he found it so laughably untenable. The UK backtracked and locked down after determining that a horrifying number of people would needlessly die that way.

Sweden so far has remained steadfast in its position, which is probably buttressed by the fact that much of the populace already works from home. However, in April, the nation has experienced a spike in deaths, prompting prominent Swedish scientists to advocate for more stringent measures, per CNN. It's also worth noting that an Imperial College London study suggests Sweden has a markedly higher rate of infections than countries on lockdown.