In a feature Thursday, the Washington Post examined how Japan and Korea are “navigating” the coronavirus pandemic, concluding that after having never fully locked down their nations, they offer the world lessons on “how to coexist with the virus.”
Japan’s prime minister has vowed to create a path into the “post-corona era,” and South Korea has launched a “living with COVID-19” panel of experts, the Post reported.
Unmentioned in the article is the experience of Sweden, which did not order full lockdowns or mandate masks and now has the lowest COVID-19 case-rate per capita in Europe, with the exception of the microstate of San Marino.
Sweden’s rate of deaths, per capita, has followed the ups and downs of the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, and is lower at the moment than all three.
Sweden was maligned in 2020 for foregoing a strict lockdown and not imposing mask mandates, pointed out the Foundation for Economic Education. The Nordic nation’s approach was seen by the Guardian newspaper as “a catastrophe” in the making. And CBS News said Sweden had become “an example of how not to handle COVID-19.”
But Sweden “won the argument” on COVID-19, contends state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell.
In July 2020, he defended his country’s policies, saying, “Judge me in a year.”
Last month, he was asked in an interview with the “Unherd” podcast what Sweden’s main argument was for not locking down or mandating masks.
“I think we tried to argue from fairly early on that this is a disease we have to learn to live with,” he said.
“And more and more countries are taking that position, because even with a fantastic vaccine, we can control it, but we cannot eradicate it. … We have to accept a certain level of spread in the society. We probably have to accept there’s going to be a few cases in our hospitals, with COVID-19 in the foreseeable future, just like we are accepting a few cases of flu or a few cases of many diseases that we cannot control completely.”
Sweden is proud of of the fact that it kept schools open.
“When you ask Swedish children, they have definitely been affected by the pandemic, but to a lot lesser degree than children would have been if we had closed the schools,” Tegnell said. “And I think a lot of countries also have followed on that, which I think is very good. And if you look at the global level, the United Nations and many others point to children being out of school being one of the main disasters that this pandemic has created. ”
Japan and South Korea took a “lockdown lite” path, the Post said, that “relied on the cooperation of citizens already accustomed to mask-wearing and social distancing in response to previous respiratory epidemics.”
In Sweden, Tegnell explained, “there is a high level of both respect and trust between the population and the government and the agencies,” which is why “we could get quite a lot of impact on doing things on a voluntary basis.”
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