Modelers have sought to scare Sweden into locking down with horrific predictions. Several models forecasting appalling numbers of Swedish deaths have appeared online without benefit of peer review. One that came out after the Swedish epidemic had peaked nonetheless predicted an incredible median of 96,000 deaths, with a maximum of 183,000.
The Worldometer site provides specific numbers for cases per million. As of May 16, Sweden has 365; the U.K. 511; France 431; Spain 591; Italy 528, and Belgium a whopping Belgium 781. The Netherlands is just below Sweden at 332.
“Locking down is saving time; it’s not solving anything,” says Tegnell. By not locking down and flattening, to the extent that flattening works, Sweden has in essence “front-loaded” its deaths and decreased those deaths later on. That may help explain why it has significantly more per-capita deaths than the other Scandinavian countries.
Sweden isn’t the only European country that didn’t lock down. Iceland didn’t either, and can point to a minuscule death rate/per 100,000 population of 2.83. “We have taken a middle of the road approach, rather than lockdown,” reports Kari Stefansson, founder and CEO of deCODE, an Icelandic subsidiary of U.S. biotech company Amgen. “Elementary schools, childcare and stores are still open, for example, but we have banned gatherings of more than 20 people and closed theatres and concert halls.”
Instead, the small island nation engaged in massive testing and actual contact tracing (as opposed to the usual tracing of friends, family members, and co-workers) followed by quarantining of infected persons.
(Don't be deceived: There’s no inherent advantage to having a small population in a tiny geographic area. The European microstates of Andorra and San Marino locked down and yet have extremely high per-capita death rates. As for any island effect, Ireland’s death rate is ten times that of Iceland's.)
For now, it is safe to say that the more dire predictions of the Swedish model’s critics have not materialized. The Swedish approach has even received praise from the unlikeliest of sources, the World Health Organization. The virus didn’t overwhelm Sweden’s public health system, and antibody testing will probably reveal a high number of people already infected who therefore won’t comprise a “second wave,” even as Sweden's economy and civil liberties were spared the ravages exacted by draconian lockdowns across much of the world.