KUALA LUMPUR, March 31 — As Covid-19 continues to spread across Europe and the images of deserted cities, huge warehouses converted into hospitals, and army trucks transporting the deceased become more prevalent and common in social media feeds, Sweden remains defiant against suggestions to impose a lockdown.
Its prime minister, Stefan Löfven, has instead urged citizens to behave “as adults” and not to spread “panic or rumours”.
Sweden has so far recorded 3,700 cases and 110 deaths.
Just a couple of days ago, the government advised Swedes to take precautions by adopting social distancing or avoid social contact altogether if age 70 and above, no grouping of more than 50 people, work from home and table service only in restaurants and bars.
But, schools, eateries, gyms, cinemas and shops remain open. Beaches and parks are full of people. The ski slopes are busy.
The media is instead blamed by the public for creating “hysteria” about the outbreak.
The strategy adopted by the Swedish government is a controversial one: allowing the spread of the coronavirus through the population and managing it as necessary. No lockdown of the population necessary. Sweden has utilised the same strategy earlier adopted but later abandoned by the United Kingdom, of “herd immunity”.
“Yes, there has been an increase but it’s not traumatic so far. Of course, we’re going into a phase in the epidemic where we’ll see a lot more cases in the next few weeks, more people in the ICU, but that’s just like any other country – nowhere has been able to slow down the spread considerably,” said Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s chief epidemiologist said to The Guardian.
“You can’t keep a lockdown going for months – it’s impossible.”