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Opinion
Lionel Laurent

No, Sweden Isn’t a Miracle Coronavirus Model

The country’s lockdown model is being lauded by the WHO, but it’s a unique case whose death rate is much worse than those of its neighbors.  

A Stockholm weekend.

A Stockholm weekend.

Photographer: ANDERS WIKLUND/AFP

The World Health Organization has been generous with its praise throughout this pandemic. China, Singapore and Ireland have all received plaudits for their handling of the coronavirus crisis. Now that a new turning point is in sight, with the infection’s spread slowing and draconian lockdown measures being gradually lifted, the WHO is promoting the Swedish way of doing things. “Sweden represents a future model… if we wish to get back to a society in which we don’t have lockdowns,” the WHO’s Mike Ryan said, praising the way Swedes are trusted to “self-regulate.”

Sweden’s hands-off approach to lockdown has certainly been different to that of other countries, from France and Italy to the U.S. and China. Large public gatherings are banned but restaurants, bars and schools have stayed open, and social distancing is encouraged rather than enforced by police. Trust in the public is high, and so is the public’s trust in the strategy. Swedes seem happy with the global attention. “Many countries are starting to come around to the Swedish way,” Anders Tegnell, the country’s chief epidemiologist, told USA Today.