Reportedly, Sweden has not gone into a COVID-19 lockdown, unlike its neighbours. While I am sure this is a deliberate policy choice, it will also serve as an interesting epidemiological experiment to test the effectiveness of different social response measures.
It is still early in the course of this international experiment, but a look at the growth in cases intially suggests that Sweden’s strategy is not leading to a significantly higher infection rate.
However, confirmed cases are difficult to compare across countries as they can be heavily influenced by the testing regimes each country implements How many tests are performed? Do they target particular groups (international travellers, those in contact with confirmed cases or are they driven by symptoms? It is very hard to account for these factors. Instead it is easier to compare the number of deaths. While there can still be differences (Under what circumstances are post-mortem deaths tested for COVID-19? How are co-morbidities accounted for? Are there more older citizens?), I think it is reasonable to expect less significant variation across neighbouring countries.
Looking at deaths, Sweden looks far worse than its neighbours. Sweden has approximately the same number of confirmed cases as Norway, but more than five times the number of deaths.
Interestingly, Sweden’s case count is very close to Australia’s, but Australia has to date seen 23 deaths, compared to 239 in Sweden – almost 10 times as many.
This suggests either that Sweden’s confirmed case count is significantly understated – it would be understated everywhere but likely more so in Sweden than elsewhere – or Sweden is suffering a far higher mortality rate.
The experiment is not yet over, but so far Sweden’s no lockdown strategy does not seem to be working.