COVID-19

Sweden acknowledges its no-lockdown COVID-19 strategy might have been a mistake

Victoria Craig Jun 3, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell of the Swedish Public Health Agency now says there was "potential for improvement" in the country's strategy to fight the pandemic. Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Sweden acknowledges its no-lockdown COVID-19 strategy might have been a mistake

Victoria Craig Jun 3, 2020
State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell of the Swedish Public Health Agency now says there was "potential for improvement" in the country's strategy to fight the pandemic. Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP via Getty Images
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Sweden captured attention for its relaxed approach to containing the spread of COVID-19 this year.

Social distancing was encouraged, but shops and restaurants stayed open, those younger than 16 continued to go to school and borders stayed open to European visitors.

That helped the economy continue to grow in the first quarter, unlike many other nations. But, with some data showing Sweden had the highest per capita death rate in the world last week, the architect of the country’s strategy says it might have been a mistake.

Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said there is “potential for improvement” in the government’s no-lockdown strategy, suggesting a more effective policy might have been somewhere between what Sweden opted for and the strict restrictions other nations imposed.

Tegnell’s comments are an about-face: For months, he’s insisted his nation’s approach was more sustainable.

It has so far prevented the country from suffering the kind of deep economic blow other nation’s felt — Sweden’s economy grew 0.4% in the first quarter from a year ago, while the eurozone (which Sweden is not part of) contracted more than 3%.

Still, Robert Bergqvist, chief economist at SEB, says Sweden’s economic trajectory can be impacted by a number of factors.

“Exit policies in other countries in Europe — we are very dependent on exports. It also depends on recovery strategy,” Bergqvist said.

He said despite Tegnell’s comments, prospects of a lockdown now in Sweden are uncertain, and though public finances are strong, new restrictions would come with a price tag the country likely couldn’t afford.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?

Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.

How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?

Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.

How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?

As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.

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