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The more we observe and learn about SARS-CoV-2, the more it becomes clear that this virus is not really that novel. It’s only the governmental and societal response to it that is novel.
Sweden, the only major country to treat this virus more as a typical viral pathogen, has been ridiculed as the country taking the dangerous and novel approach by shielding the vulnerable and letting the rest achieve herd immunity quickly. Who was right?
Well, the continued panic of all the governments that have been mandating lockdowns, masking, and fearmongering restrictions for six months speaks for itself. Dr. Fauci is now warning that Americans need to “hunker down” for the fall and winter and prepare for the doom of coronavirus alongside the flu, which will now become the new inflection point for panic.
But it’s becoming increasingly clear every day that one country doesn’t even have to fear an intensification of the virus. Those who counted Sweden out in the first half of the game are going to watch them win it in the second half.
Here is Sweden’s epidemiological curve of cases and deaths, from COVID-19 Data Visualization:
Remember the abandoned trope of “flatten the curve”? Well, it looks like the country that did the best job of that is the one that did the opposite of what we were told would achieve that goal. Sweden is now averaging about one death per day in the entire country, and that is based on a very liberal definition of a COVID-19 death. In fact, Sweden has been over this epidemic for a long time. The country hasn’t had a day of double-digit deaths since July 19.
Even as cases begin to increase in countries that previously thought they dodged the bullet with minimal cases, Sweden appears to have achieved de facto herd immunity.
The latest Covid map of Europe. Note Sweden. Blue indicates no infection. pic.twitter.com/DEyKdLp4Zs
— David Quinn (@DavQuinn) September 10, 2020
While Sweden always had a better result than Europe’s larger countries, such as England, France, Spain, and Italy, the Swedes took heat for having a higher death rate earlier on than other Nordic countries. But Sweden’s death rate is now under that of the U.S., and cases are increasing in other Nordic countries while Sweden’s are flatlining. Norway is also seeing an increase in cases. Denmark, which was one of the earliest countries to close down, now has the most cases since April, rendering its “prudent” early lockdown meaningless. Clearly, there is no right way to do a lockdown, because human intervention like this can only harm but will never improve the net result.
While everyone focuses on the early death rate in Sweden, the point that is missed is that Sweden avoided all the lockdown deaths, economic destruction, and mental health crisis that are incalculable in other countries. We have some states where clinical depression has reached nearly half the population and where suicides and drug overdoses are skyrocketing. According to one study published in JAMA Network, just as of mid-April, just one month into the national panic, “prevalence of depression symptoms was more than 3-fold higher during COVID-19 compared with the most recent population-based estimates of mental health in the US.” That is a crushing cost to a society that will reverberate here and in similar countries for years to come, but not in Sweden.
Moreover, how many people in Sweden really died of the virus? When you look at the excess deaths, despite having no lockdown, Sweden’s all-cause deaths so far this year are actually unremarkable.
Can't you see how dangerous "COVID-19" is? pic.twitter.com/88wTxkUStO
— Hans im Glück (@Alpenstrudel) September 10, 2020
The country experienced a worse year of excess deaths just five years ago. It has not experienced a week with any excess deaths relative to the average from the past five years since late May.
As much as other countries’ leaders hate eating crow and admitting their mistakes, they will all eventually realize that Sweden took the right path. The mainstreaming of the Swedish approach is already occurring. Earlier this month, Johan Giesecke, one of the masterminds of Sweden’s “herd immunity” strategy, was promoted by the World Health Organization to vice chair of the Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on Infectious Hazards. In other words, he will be advising WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on pandemic response. If Sweden were really the pariah country our media makes it out to be, a guy like Giesecke would be banished from a dog-catcher position at the WHO, much less a position of authority, in response to this very pandemic.
According to Newsweek, Giesecke, who served as Sweden’s top epidemiologist between 1995 and 2005, mentored Anders Tegnell, the current epidemiologist, in the brave but lone approach to the pandemic. He wrote a paper in early May arguing that “everyone will be exposed” to the virus at some point and that “most people will become infected” — but that most of the people spreading it will have “no or weak symptoms.”
“There is very little we can do to prevent this spread: a lockdown might delay severe cases for a while, but once restrictions are eased, cases will reappear,” wrote Giesecke in his prophetic piece in the Lancet. “I expect that when we count the number of deaths from COVID-19 in each country in one year from now, the figures will be similar, regardless of measures taken.”
Was it prophecy or just plain prudence? Either way, he got it right.
In March, the Guardian posted a frantic quote from a Swedish immunology researcher warning, “They are leading us to catastrophe.” Well, if that is what catastrophe looks like, then how would you describe some of the other countries that now have shattered societies due to lockdown, plus increasing cases?