I recently published a blog suggesting that the approach Sweden has taken to managing the pandemic delivers a start warning to Britain. Today I publish comment on the blog from two people whose views I value. Both see Sweden’s response more positively.
Ros Altmann (commenting directly on the blog)
I must admit that I see things very differently. I think Sweden is a model we could all look to, if we open our eyes to the realities.
The numbers of people dying per thousand of the population in the UK, Spain, Italy and Belgium are far higher than those in Sweden, so it is hard to make a persuasive case that the lockdowns in other countries have worked better than Sweden’s model.
And the numbers of people who have died due to lockdown, rather than dying from Covid, will also be far higher in other countries than in Sweden. People have died of heart trouble, stroke, suicide and isolation that led to dehydration who would not have died without being locked down.
People will be dying of cancers that went undetected for 3 or more months and would have been operable but no longer are.
The concept of lockdown for more than a very brief period brings its own serious side-effects and we cannot tell yet whether Sweden’s model is the right one or not.
Certainly, the evidence so far would suggest that Sweden has done better than we have, or than other EU countries, although of course there are also other Scandinavian countries who have done better, as have many in South East Asia.
Maybe wearing masks would be better than anything we have done in Europe or the US? We cannot know yet.
But please don’t write off Sweden unfairly, indeed I admire the way its Government has stuck to its policy and been willing to make its own judgments without following everyone else.
Many may disagree with me, but the evidence does not suggest the UK has done better than Sweden, so we could look to them for lessons rather than the other way round.
Michelle Cracknell (commenting on Linked in)
I disagree with your headline.
The number of cases in a country is not really a measure to use to determine the success of their policies. It is affected by the number of people being tested.
It is also not a bad thing to get Covid. The important measure is the number of deaths compared with the 5 year average, which is provided by ONS in the UK and similar organisations across the world.
This takes out the variable of whether Covid was on the death certificate and rightly includes deaths that have been a consequence to the lack of access to non Covid medical treatments.
It is also too early to call which country has been most successful in fighting this disease. We are seeing across the globe second waves of the virus. The opening up of travel may see this increase further.
The R number in the UK is now close to 1 in many parts. Finally, death from the response to the epidemic will also include those where the primary symptom was mental health or poverty.
It could be that we will look back in 2022 to discover that the Swedish policy was the most effective for keeping the death rate closest to the norm.
I would certainly prefer to live in Sweden than in many other countries and Germany is another country with low deaths and high infections.
Both Sweden and Germany test more than in the UK But there is clear evidence that shielding, social distancing and the use of PPE protect the vulnerable .
Almost all European countries accept that they inadequately protected those in care homes – Sweden included. I am in quarantine at the moment, at 3.30 pm last night the police rang my doorbell asking if I knew anything about a fight going on in the street near our flat.
The point i am making is about public trust and if we see people roaming the street as they were in parts of London last night, then i fear that trust isn’t lasting. We have to continue to be kind to each other, to respect the law and respect the science and our leaders.
In response to your first point, how long will people be prepared to social distance. The evidence in the UK is very clear that a large proportion of people have reached their limit.
The issue is that people have moved from very limited interactions with no exposure to any viruses to full on, free for all . This raises the question on whether the Swedish approach may be more sustainable for longer.
The analogy is that we have given out the keys to the Ferrari whereas Sweden has always been using a Volvo.
In response to your second point, I agree that the chances of civil unrest and disquiet is extremely high. I made this point in my comment that the policies used to tackle Covid may give rise to extra deaths from poverty and mental health; the latter being linked to Civil unrest.
Michelle has also published this blog
I was provoked to respond to a LinkedIn post today that cited the number of Covid cases in Sweden as a failure of that country’s policies. It is far too early to start judging, which countries have been most successful in dealing with this pandemic.
As a layman, I would make the following observations about Covid.
- The number of cases in a country is not really a measure to use to determine the success of their policies. It is affected by the number of people being tested. It is not a bad thing to get Covid. The important measure is the number of deaths compared with the 5 year average, which is provided by ONS in the UK and similar organisations across the world. This takes out the variable of whether Covid was on the death certificate and rightly includes deaths that have been a consequence to the lack of access to non Covid medical treatments.
- It is also too early to call which country has been most successful in fighting this disease. We are seeing across the globe second waves of the virus. The opening up of travel may see this increase further. The R number in the UK is now close to 1 in many parts.
- Deaths as a result to how we have responded to Covid will also be those where the primary symptom was mental health, poverty or civil unrest.
However, the real point is that this has only just begun.
- There will be more pandemics if the world carries on in the way that it is operating currently.
- The impact on the economy will live with us for many years to come.
- There will be no “return to normal” and to do so would be to repeat what has happened. We should learn and change from what has been a life changing experience.
With apologies for those that now have a Carpenter’s ear worm for the rest of the day!
While the World Health Organisations says
“the Worst is yet to come”
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) June 29, 2020
When in March, after briefly flirting with the Swedish approach, Britain went into lock down, the prognosis from Imperial College was that – unsupressed – COVID-19 would kill 250,000 of us in the UK
The latest numbers suggest that excess deaths are on a plateau at around 60,000.
Whether you consider 60,000 half full or half empty, it is an enormous number of people who have died before their time.
We now face the same choice as we did in March and we are being introduced to a new concept “local lockdown”. We are trying to find a way to live with the pandemic as a new normal and this is proving contentious. Whereas previously we found rocks to cling to – the NHS in particular- now it feels as if we are all at sea.
Now – at this half-way point , we have to consider whether we lockdown or look up. My heart says look up but my head says lockdown.
What do you think?