Joining the Herd?

Sweden’s Coronavirus Strategy Will Soon Be the World’s

Lockdown protesters shout ‘be like Sweden’ — but Swedes say they are missing the point

As Europe emerges from lockdown, the question hangs: was Sweden right?

If you thought the politics of coronavirus couldn’t get any crazier, think again. Trump has totally copped out of any pretense to manage the crisis, while the U.S. leads the world in cases and deaths. If so many people weren’t dying, this could be high comedy: see Sarah Cooper above. Did you ever have a nightmare with humorous overtones?

The right wing has begun praising Sweden’s approach after years of vilifying its liberal government. The left wing wants to keep everyone locked down. Wisconsin opens up completely with no protections. Armed protestors get nasty in Michigan. People are fed up with staying home and the economy is suffering badly. So hoping for immunity is apparently a last resort.

Sweden’s opening up is based on the idea that eventually the populace will develop immunities to the virus, a herd immunity of maybe 60 percent, though that will require voluntary social distancing and other restrictions that the Swedes seem to be buying into. Yet the country has been criticized for “exceeding the per capita death rates of other Nordic countries and in particular, for failing to protect its elderly and immigrant populations. People receiving nursing and elder-care services account for upward of 50 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Sweden . . . .”

So the Swedish response is really a mixed bag, though one site opines that “the economic and social costs of lockdowns are enormous.” It has taken a careful government response to slow the spread of the virus, though this hasn’t been entirely successful. The fact that many Republicans are now praising Sweden is based on a total misunderstanding of the policy and its outcomes. Tucker Carlson praising Sweden is truly high comedy. Nor would the policy work in the U.S., which has large populations of immigrants and low-income people. In Sweden everyone is covered by a healthcare plan.

The idea of herd immunity makes many people skeptical and afraid. And yet, to follow the Swedish argument, we have to “find ways of living with this virus. There is no sign of a vaccine on the immediate horizon. We cannot ruin the world economy indefinitely. Better to concentrate on protecting our health services against it, should it return.”

The Swedish model will certainly not work everywhere. In Sweden there is a high level of trust between the people and the government. That is absolutely not true in the U.S. or, for that matter, the U.K. And the Swedes have a much healthier population that comes from a better healthcare system. They don’t do so well at helping at-risk people.

The U.S. is learning that it ultimately can’t manage a general lockdown. It can’t even manage to produce enough swabs. The country is going to be forced into adopting a kind of herd immunity because, as Trump’s folly has shown, there’s no other workable choice.

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