Sweden has become something of a cautionary tale for what happens when you attempt to tackle coronavirus without lockdowns.
In The Conversation last week The Grattan Institute’s Stephen Duckett and Will Mackey said its freer approach caused almost as much economic damage as a lockdown would have, and many more deaths.
Sweden’s death rate is indeed high compared to others at this stage.
At the time of writing worldometer suggests Sweden is one of the worst nations in the world in terms of deaths per million population, being beaten among the populous nations only by Belgium, Britain, Spain, Italy, and Peru.
So far Sweden’s done badly in terms of deaths
At 568 deaths per million it has done worse than the United States (480) and much worse than nations such as Denmark (106), Australia (9) South Korea (6) and New Zealand (4).
And on one reading its economic performance doesn’t seem much better than Denmark’s.
Denmark imposed strict restrictions from early March, closing the border to all foreign nationals, limiting social gatherings to ten, shutting schools, universities and non-essential work, and encouraging the entire population to stay home and minimise social contact.
Neighbouring Sweden allowed bars and restaurants to remain open with capacity constraints and table service. Preschools and primary schools were kept open but senior schools closed, and its borders remained open to people from Europe. At the same time it banned visitors from aged care facilities and encouraged old people and those with pre-existing health conditions to avoid social contact.
The University of Copenhagen study cited by those who argue Sweden got it wrong finds that in Sweden aggregate spending dropped 25% whereas in neighbouring Denmark it dropped 29%.
The authors conclude
even when there are no major restrictions on economic activity, as in Sweden, a pandemic induces a sizeable contraction of spending; the additional drop in spending caused by a shutdown, as in Denmark, is relatively small
But it might not stay that way
The University of Copenhagen study was close to a snapshot, presenting data for the four weeks between March 11 to April 5.
Authors: Andreas Ortmann, Professor, UNSW