One of the more interesting aspects of covering the COVID-19 global pandemic has been reading the media’s reaction to how Sweden has handled the crisis, especially the media in North America and the American media south of the border in particular – much of which has been picked up and amplified by the great unwashed, ill-informed and willfully ignorant members of North America’s social media community.
Anything written and published on this side of the pond regarding how Sweden has handled the pandemic usually includes the words “disastrous”, “misguided”, “horrible”, “horrific”, “nuts”, “crazy”... well you get the picture.
In actual fact, the Swedish model is no better or worse than many other countries in the world.
One popular fallacy is that Sweden has one of the highest death rates on the planet. The fact is that Sweden has the 13th highest death rate in the world and the seventh highest death rate in Europe behind Spain, Italy, Belgium, Andorra, San Marino and the UK.
Another popular point that is often made by detractors of the Swedish model is that the country’s death rate is much higher than neighbouring countries Denmark, Finland and Norway, which is true, but so is Canada’s death rate which is currently 24.86 per 100,000 pop.: Denmark’s is 10.85; Finland’s is 6.11 and Norway’s is 4.99. By comparison, Sweden’s death rate is 57.41 per 100,000 pop. The difference is that Denmark, Finland and Sweden all had strict lockdowns with mandatory face mask requirements.
Which brings me to another fallacy – that Sweden failed to introduce any COVID-19 precautions. Again, not true. Sweden limited gatherings to no more than 50 people from the outset. Restaurants, bars and cafés have to enforce a one-metre physical distancing requirement with zero tolerance for over-crowding. In general, Swedish residents must maintain a two-metre physical distancing requirement. The biggest difference between Sweden and most other countries in the world is that face masks were never made mandatory.
According to the statistics for the month of August, Sweden had twice as many new COVID-19 cases as Canada, but the death rates were statistically identical. But here’s the kicker: according to a survey conducted by the World Health Organization, Sweden’s compliance rate for face masks is just six per cent, while Canada’s compliance rate is 76 per cent. So how is it possible that our death rates are nearly identical? Could it have possibly have anything to do with the fact that physical distancing plays a much greater role in limiting the transmission of the novel coronavirus than face masks?
Of course, that type of radical thinking runs contrary to the conventional wisdom being promoted by health officials and in the media here in North America which may account for all the Sweden bashing going on. Just sayin’.