‘Cancel everything’: Sweden turns around in its coronavirus strategy

Change of course for Sweden. Until now, the Scandinavian country, which relied on a collective immunity strategy, had not taken strict health measures in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The rapid rise in contaminations and deaths forced the government to take restrictive measures for the first time.

On Monday, Social Democratic Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announced the ban on public gatherings of more than eight people, from November 24, for at least four weeks. Unheard of in Sweden, even during the first wave. This measure “very intrusive” and “unprecedented” is “necessary” to lower the curve of the number of infections, justified the Prime Minister, stressing that the epidemic would “continue to worsen”.

Don’t go to the gym, don’t go to the library, don’t have dinner parties or parties. Cancel everything!“, urged the Prime Minister during a press conference. In practice, these measures remain however flexible compared to the partial confinements practiced in other European countries, like Belgium. This ban on assembly is valid only in public places such as sporting and cultural events, as well as for demonstrations Bars and restaurants remain open, with a maximum of eight customers per table. In private circles, this restriction is not mandatory, and is merely a recommendation.

The few measures taken so far have been banning gatherings of more than 50 people and visits to nursing homes (April to October). On November 10, the government also banned the sale of alcohol after 10 p.m., forcing bars to close at that time until February 2021.

A failure of collective immunity

Why this change of strategy? Until now, Sweden relied on collective immunity of its population, which was to protect it from a second wave. But since the end of the summer, the country has suffered the blow. The kingdom of 10 million people has 192,439 cases and more than 6,200 deaths, according to data from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). As of Friday, a record 6,000 new daily cases were also recorded.

Faced with these data, Swedish scientists are contesting the government’s strategy. “So far, the Swedish strategy has turned out to be a dramatic failure,” virologist Lena Einhor told the Financial Times.

Experts agree that at least 60% of the population must have been infected and immunized with the virus to speak of group immunity. However, according to a report by the Swedish public health agency, only 7.3% of Stockholm residents tested developed antibodies.

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