How Sweden’s bold ‘herd immunity approach’ on COVID-19 failed

For the nation with a population of 1.02 crore, the death toll is 5,424

sweden covid reuters Representational image from Stockholm | Reuters

Sweden, the Scandinavian nation, under the leadership of Prime Minister Stefan Lofven never imposed a lockdown like many other nations across the world did at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. However, Sweden’s different approach of herd immunity did not exactly work in the nation’s favour. In the nation with a population of 1.02 crore, the virus has so far claimed more than 5,420 lives.

This may seem like a low number in comparison with a number like 130,000 fatalities in the US, but given the population of the country, the total number of cases per million of population in Sweden amounts to 40 per cent more than those in the US and 12 times more than in Norway, seven times more than Finland and six times more than Denmark, The New York Times reported.

The Swedish government was taking the approach of herd immunity to tackle the pandemic. Herd immunity, according to Healthline, can happen in two ways: 1. Many people contract the disease and in time build up an immune response to it naturally. 2. Many people are vaccinated against the disease to achieve immunity.

Sweden had allowed large gatherings to form, schools to remain open, restaurants to remain open till late and resorts to welcome guests.

This captured international attention to the effect that US President Donald Trump on April 30 tweeted, “Despite reports to the contrary, Sweden is paying heavily for its decision not to lockdown. As of today, 2,462 people have died there, a much higher number than the neighbouring countries of Norway (207), Finland (206) or Denmark (443). The United States made the correct decision!”

The decision taken by Sweden has gained international attention and thanks to the death toll, has become a cautionary tale. Sweden’s economy might have fared slightly better than the other neighbouring nations that went under lockdown but, putting the stock on people’s sensibility to avoid large gatherings has resulted in 73,334 people contracting the disease.

 Sweden’s central bank expects its economy to contract by 4.5 per cent this year, a revision from a previously expected gain of 1.3 per cent. This is more or less similar to how the damage caused by the pandemic has played out in Denmark, where the central bank expects that the economy will shrink 4.1 per cent this year.