Whither Sweden?

  • Sinophile Tom Friedman

    Here’s the stone-cold truth: There are only different hellish ways to adapt to a pandemic and save both lives and livelihoods. I raise Sweden not because I think it has found the magic balance — it is way too soon to tell — but because I think we should be debating all the different ways and costs of acquiring immunity.

    When I look across America, though, and see governors partly lifting lockdowns — because they feel their people just can’t take it anymore for economic or psychological reasons, even though their populations have little or no immunity — I worry we may end up developing more herd immunity but in a painful, deadly, costly, uncoordinated way that still leaves room for the coronavirus to strike hard again and overwhelm hospitals.

    One of Israel’s most renowned computer scientists, Amnon Shashua, the founder of Mobileye, has been advocating a designed Swedish-style immunity pathway for Israel for weeks. “The risk-based quarantine model is not only beneficial from the point of view of economical sustainability,” but also because “when the high-risk group is released from isolation they would be facing a largely immune population thus naturally facing a very slow spread of infection with a good chance to whither the storm until a cure or vaccine is available,” he wrote in Medium last month.

    Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said in an interview with WCCO radio on Monday that “I think that Sweden is one model we need to look at, but it’s not the only model, but we surely need to have these discussions.” Because absent a miracle vaccine soon, said Osterholm, “this virus will not stop trying to infect people until we get it to at least the 60 percent or 70 percent level.”

    Herd immunity “has historically been nature’s way of ending pandemics,” added Dr. David Katz, the public health physician who helped kick off the debate in an essay he wrote in The New York Times on March 20 and in a follow-up interview we did together.

    We need to bend with her forces — even when we as a species are responsible for unleashing them,” Katz said. That means a designed strategy, based on risk profiles, of phasing back to work those least vulnerable, so we gradually cultivate the protection of herd immunity — “while concentrating our health services and social services on protecting those most vulnerable” until we can sound the all-clear.

  • This is my face: Look how shocked it is!

    The man leading Sweden's coronavirus response said the country's "death toll really came as a surprise to us" in an interview on the controversial strategy.

    He denied that Sweden's strategy to avoid a compulsory lockdown was a conscious decision to accept a higher death toll, and instead said that was never part of the plan.

    Dr Anders Tegnell, Sweden's state epidemiologist, described Sweden's approach on "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah" on Tuesday.

    He said: "We never really calculated with a high death toll initially, I must say."

    "We calculated on more people being sick, but the death toll really came as a surprise to us."

    As of Tuesday, more than 2,700 people had died and more than 23,000 people had tested positive for the virus in Sweden.

    Tegnell said there were good points to Sweden's unusual strategy, which largely relies on people to socially distance themselves without fixed rules.

    But he admitted: "I am not saying we are successful in all different ways. I mean our death toll is really something we worry a lot about."

  • Shocking. Do essentially nothing and the death toll rises to over 10% of those tested.

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  • Elsewhere on TNCR people have been busy trying to establish that Sweden is socially distancing on its own without official restrictions necessary.

    I am curious what Swedes think about all of this. I have little doubt that if there was a sufficient grassroots call for more official restrictions, those restrictions would be enacted.

    It's becoming clear to me that if anybody who lives in a highly populated area has a personal plan not to be exposed to this thing, they should plan to isolate for a very long time. And more power to them, I say. I just hope everybody is clear on who that isolation is meant to serve.

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