The Swedish example is regularly raised by libertarian-minded Conservatives when protesting against government restrictions aimed at quelling the spread of the virus in the UK. But what did the Scandinavian country do differently and could it be applied elsewhere?
When politicians across the world were confronted with the reality of a spreading pandemic, hospitals nearing capacity and deaths rising almost all of them reached for emergency legislation to enforce lockdowns, curfews and other bans on social gatherings. But Sweden chose a markedly different approach.
The Guardian’s Europe correspondent Jon Henley tells Anushka Asthana how in Sweden, the government vested its pandemic response in its unelected public health expert Anders Tegnell, who issued advice and guidance rather than strict lockdowns. It was highly controversial because of catastrophic failures in its care homes: deaths rose rapidly, far outstripping those recorded in neighbouring countries. But as much of Europe appears to be experiencing a second wave of Covid infections, in Sweden cases are not rising so rapidly.
For the Swedish historian Lars Trägårdh, the answer to the country’s relative success can be found by looking at the high levels of trust between citizen and state. It is the reason, he says, that exporting Sweden’s bespoke policies across the world will not necessarily work everywhere else.
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