Sweden has become a global outlier in its approach to stopping the coronavirus.
Rather than imposing a lockdown like most of Europe, the country has avoided “draconian” regulations, telling its people to follow social distancing, only order food at restaurants via table service, and work from home if they can.
At first, it may look like Sweden is taking the lax approach to curbing the virus. But in a country famed for its world-leading public policy, local experts think the more lax approach could still have potential.
Under guidance issued by Sweden’s Public Health Agency, Sweden will permit restaurants, bars and primary schools to remain open, with gatherings of 500 people or more still allowed to take place. Primary schools remain open, while secondary schools and universities have shut.
Everyone in Sweden is urged to stay at home if they are at all sick (even a mild cough or sore throat), avoid non-essential travel within the country, work from home if possible, and avoid non-essential visits to elderly people or hospitals.
The health agency, Folkhalsomyndigheten, believes this approach to social distancing will result in “a slow spread of infection, and that the health services have a reasonable workload”.
On Monday, Sweden’s former state epidemiologist and current advisor to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Johan Giesecke went as far as to tell Swedes to go out and enjoy the spring sun.
Saying “banning public gatherings is an idiotic idea”, he told members of the public to “bring a friend and walk a metre apart”.