The Swedish response to the covid pandemic has become one of the most talked about topics of the last six months, and there’s a lot of misinformation floating around. Since that’s the case, and since I keep getting asked what the situation on the ground is really like in Sweden, I figured I’d write up a little history, covering the key events from a Swedish perspective, and detailing exactly which restrictions were put in place at what time point, and why.
“Only a minority of people in Sweden have antibodies, so they can’t have herd immunity!”
That is the most common argument I’ve been hearing for why Sweden can’t have achieved herd immunity. This is in spite of the fact that the rates of hospitalizations and deaths have dropped continuously since the peak in April, and are now stable at basement levels.
UPDATE 14th November 2020: In light of the recent increase in hospitalizations and deaths during October and November in Sweden, I no longer believe that Sweden reached a state of herd immunity during spring. The text below represents my thinking on the 19th of September, when I wrote the article, and doesn’t represent my current thinking. It is clear that a significant level of population immunity did build up during spring and summer, since the rise in hospitalizations has been much slower during the autumn than it was during the spring, and also seems to be stabilizing at a much lower level. However, the level of population immunity is clearly not as high as I previously thought. The reason I made this mistake is that the early evidence on covid suggested that it was not behaving in a seasonal manner. This caused me to underestimate the seasonal effect of summer to push down infections, which caused me to overestimate the level of population immunity that had built up during spring. It is now clear that covid is a highly seasonal virus.
A few days back I did an interview on the Ben, Rob and Robbo show about covid-19. In the interview we discuss what measures were taken in Sweden to prevent the spread of the disease, whether Sweden has now developed herd immunity, and what the role of T-cells vs antibodies is if that is the case. We also discuss whether the Swedish government intentionally “sacrificed” a couple thousand citizens for the “greater good”, and how Sweden’s response compares to its neighbors. Finally, we talk about how long it makes sense to stay in lockdown and whether other countries should stay in lockdown until a vaccine is available or whether it makes more sense to copy the Swedish herd immunity strategy. The complete interview can be found here.
I did an interview with Sky News in Australia on the 22nd of August about covid-19, my experiences from working in the Emergency Room during the last few months, and what I think about the Swedish herd immunity strategy. The complete interview can be found here.