As soon as Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic, most countries imposed lockdown procedures as the obvious step to counter the spread of the virus. While shutdowns became the norm, Sweden took an alternative path which turned out to be quite a unique one.
Sweden chose to go down the path of self-imposed social precaution without state regulation. This meant that flights were not stopped, national borders were not sealed, no one was forced to stay home, workplaces continued to function the way they used to and all the decisions were left entirely up to the citizens.
Coronavirus infections, hospitalisations and deaths have dropped, but is Sweden getting any closer to so-called herd immunity? https://t.co/qjQWDrPydg— euronews (@euronews) July 28, 2020
Everything from restaurants, public transport, malls to cinema and saloons were open. As risky as it sounds, the results seemed to have worked in their favor initially. All the Swedish government did was recommend social distancing for everyone and requested citizens above 70 years of age to stay home.
The police were given no powers to stop and question or impose fines even if any citizen violated advisories and restrictions. The aim behind this approach was to place the onus on the citizens and their responsibility through self discipline.
But the strategy was not completely free of restrictions. The more obvious rules such as prohibiting congregations of 50 or more people, clubbing and shutting of schools were still in place. University and schools shifted online.
This strategy was implemented on the advice of the state epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell who said that there was no need for a nationwide lockdown. The strategy of Sweden in adopting limited restriction, but not a total lockdown was to reach herd immunity for its population from the coronavirus.
Herd immunity is a method to develop immunity within a population by making the majority recover from the disease. However, now Tegnell himself admitted that the model had gone wrong.
Sweden has had over 5,000 deaths in a population of just one crore. This is despite Sweden being 30 times richer than India and with a much lower population density.
While the initial mathematical calculations for Sweden’s strategy were made on the basis of previous epidemics and diseases, Covid-19 is certainly not like any of them and is still leaving room for new discoveries.