ER Editor: Yesterday, The Telegraph (paywall) published an article by Henry Bodkin in which our friend Neil Ferguson basically admitted that Sweden achieved the same virus result without the extreme repression of the population:
The scientist behind lockdown in the UK has admitted that Sweden has achieved roughly the same suppression of coronavirus without draconian restrictions.
Neil Ferguson, who became known as “professor lockdown” after convincing Boris Johnson to radically curtail everyday freedoms, acknowledged that, despite relying on “quite similar science”, the Swedish authorities had “got a long way to the same effect” without a full lockdown.
Sweden has adopted a far softer approach to Covid-19 than elsewhere in Europe, introducing voluntary social-distancing measures and keeping restaurants and bars and many schools open.
As of the end of May it had recorded 4,350 deaths from Covid-19. By contrast, as of Monday there had been at least 39,045 in England….
See also this report by CNBC from a few days ago titled Sweden’s economy actually grew in the first quarter after it opted against a full virus lockdown.
We remind readers of the WHO’s praise for the Swedish approach from a month ago. See Lockdown-Free Sweden Had It Right, Says World Health Organization: Interview with Prof. Johan Giesecke. In this interview, Giesecke notes how relatively larger the care homes are in Sweden, with typically hundreds of residents, than in Norway, hence accounting for a higher mortality rate in the vulnerable nursing home populations.
Sweden’s Triumph: Staying Free in a Lockdown World
Why is the media so preoccupied with Sweden? And why is the media so determined to prove that Sweden’s approach to the coronavirus is wrong?
Are we supposed to believe that the same MSM that promoted every bloody coup, intervention and war for the last 30 years has suddenly become a selfless advocate for elderly Swedes fighting off a lethal infection?
That’s baloney. The reason the media publishes roughly 15 articles blasting Sweden for every one article voicing support is because the media has a stake in the outcome. The media wants to dispel the idea that there is any alternative to the authoritarian lockdown approach. Thus, the Swedish model– that leaves parts of the economy open and trusts people to follow the government’s “distancing” guidelines — has to be obliterated. That’s what’s really going on. The media has no interest in a smallish north European country of 10.4 million people. What they care about is the example that Sweden is setting for other countries around the world. If those other countries follow suit and settle on an approach that is based on science and trust rather than politics and coercion, then the elitist plan to prolong the crisis and restructure the economy begins to unravel. So, Sweden must be annihilated. It’s that simple.
The first line of attack against Sweden is its “death rate,” which is significantly higher than its neighbors in Norway or Denmark. And while there are only 4,395 deaths in Sweden today as opposed to over 100,000 in the United States, the information is always presented in the most sensationalist terms, like this goofy clip from the National Review:
“There have now been ten times as many COVID-19 deaths in Sweden than Norway on a per capita basis. According to the Worldometers website, 435 out of every one million Swedes have died from the virus, while the virus has killed 44 out of every million Norwegians.” (National Review)
Wow, “435 out of every one million Swedes have died from the virus!” Those barbaric Swedes, they’re killing their own people!
This is alarmist nonsense. Think about it: “435 out of every million” is just 1 in every 2,500. Is that enough to justify the shutting down of the economy and suspending civil liberties? Of course, not. And, keep in mind, the great majority of these fatalities are among people that are 70 years-old and up with underlying health conditions. Like everywhere else, roughly 90% of Covid fatalities occur among the over 60-crowd with co-morbidities”.
So I put this question to you: Is one death in every 2,500 sufficient reason to strangle the economy and put the country under house arrest?
The answer is “No”. The lockdown was not only a mistake, it was a fear-fueled, knee-jerk reaction to the exponential spike in Covid-positive cases for which policymakers were completely unprepared. So, instead of consulting a broader range of experts with varying opinions on the topic, the Trump administration adopted the Chinese model that was supported by Dr Fauci and the Vaccine Mafia. As as result, 40 million Americans have lost their jobs, every sector of the economy is in freefall, and the US is headed for another Great Depression. In contrast to this madness, Sweden’s infectious disease experts developed a sensible, science-based plan which was laid out in an article by Dr. Johan Giesecke at The Lancet. Here’s an excerpt:
“It has become clear that a hard lockdown does not protect old and frail people living in care homes—a population the lockdown was designed to protect. Neither does it decrease mortality from COVID-19, which is evident when comparing the UK’s experience with that of other European countries…
These facts have led me to the following conclusions. Everyone will be exposed to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, and most people will become infected. COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire in all countries, but we do not see it—it almost always spreads from younger people with no or weak symptoms to other people who will also have mild symptoms. This is the real pandemic, but it goes on beneath the surface, and is probably at its peak now in many European countries. 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. I expect that when we count the number of deaths from COVID-19 in each country in 1 year from now, the figures will be similar, regardless of measures taken.
Measures to flatten the curve might have an effect, but a lockdown only pushes the severe cases into the future —it will not prevent them. Admittedly, countries have managed to slow down spread so as not to overburden health-care systems, and, yes, effective drugs that save lives might soon be developed, but this pandemic is swift, and those drugs have to be developed, tested, and marketed quickly. Much hope is put in vaccines, but they will take time, and with the unclear protective immunological response to infection, it is not certain that vaccines will be very effective.
In summary, COVID-19 is a disease that is highly infectious and spreads rapidly through society. It is often quite symptomless and might pass unnoticed, but it also causes severe disease, and even death, in a proportion of the population, and our most important task is not to stop spread, which is all but futile, but to concentrate on giving the unfortunate victims optimal care.” (“The Invisible Pandemic”, The Lancet)
As you can see, the Swedish team that developed the policy was not “gambling” with Swedish lives as the idiot media likes to say. They were applying decades of science to a problem that required them to make tough decisions about the best way to navigate an epidemic for which there is no known cure and no effective treatment. And their choice was clearly the right one. They elected to keep the economy open as much as possible while making every effort to protect the old and vulnerable. It was an excellent plan despite the notable failures in its implementation, the biggest of which was the surge of fatalities at the rest homes which has been nothing short of a catastrophe. More than half of Sweden’s death toll comes from these homes for the elderly, while a whopping 4,200 of the 4,386 people who have died from the virus have been over 60. That is NOT a misprint. (See Sweden’s official state statistics here) A mere 186 people under 60 have died from the infection.
While these statistics may be shocking, they don’t suggest the policy was wrong, only that there wasn’t enough effort put into protecting the elderly. So, is it fair to blame Sweden for its higher death rate?
Of course, it is, provided we allow sufficient time to see whether the lockdowns actually prevented deaths or if they just postponed them until the restrictions were lifted. That’s the only way we’ll know for sure whether they worked or not. Some experts predict that the percentage of deaths will balance out in the long-term and that Norway and Denmark’s fatality rate will look very similar to Sweden’s. But only time will tell.
It’s also worth noting that Belgium, Spain, United Kingdom, Italy and France all lead Sweden in terms of “deaths per million,” which is the standard metric for measuring the success or failure of a particular approach. So why is Sweden –which has 405 deaths per million– so savagely raked over the coals, while Belgium–that has 817 deaths per million — gets off scot-free? It’s because Belgium hasn’t veered from the official lockdown policy which achieves the elitist dream of universal martial law. Sweden rejected that option which is why the agenda-driven media has hung a bullseye on its back.
Did you know that the Norwegian Prime Minister admitted that the lockdown was a mistake? It’s true, here’s what she said:
“Last Wednesday night, Norway’s prime minister Erna Solberg went on television to make a confession: she had panicked at the start of the pandemic. Most of the tough measures imposed in Norway’s lockdown were steps too far, she admitted. “Was it necessary to close schools?” she asked. “Perhaps not.”
She isn’t the first Norwegian official to acknowledge that the lockdown wasn’t necessary. On May 5th, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) published a briefing note reporting….“Our assessment now… is that we could possibly have achieved the same effects and avoided some of the unfortunate impacts by not locking down, but by instead keeping open but with infection control measures,” Camilla Stoltenberg, NIPH’s Director General said in a TV interview earlier this month….
Interesting, eh? So while Norway is invariably used to prove that Sweden “got it wrong”, Norway’s own PM thinks they “got it right”. It’s no surprise that this story didn’t appear anywhere in the western media.
And, did you know that the UK Government has released the classified minutes from the SAGE (The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) meetings which show that the government’s decision to lockdown the country was not based on science but on politics? Check it out:
“…at no point did SAGE discuss anything resembling a full lockdown. Indeed, SAGE noted at a meeting on March 10th that banning public gatherings would have little effect since most viral transmission occurred in confined spaces, such as within households….
In other words, Boris Johnson and his advisors were not following “the science” when they took the decision to lock down the country on March 23rd – they weren’t acting on any specific recommendations by SAGE. Nor can the Government claim this is one of the options that was discussed at SAGE meetings and it was basing its decision, in part, on SAGE’s analysis of the impact of a full lockdown. That option was not discussed at any of the meetings before March 23rd. In this respect, it was a political decision.” (“Was the Government Really Following “the Science”? Lockdown Skeptics)
There it is in black and white: the British lockdown isn’t science-based anymore than the American lockdown is science-based. The policy was adopted by hysterical politicians who overreacted to a public health crisis for which they were totally unprepared. That’s what these classified SAGE documents prove.
No “Herd Immunity” after all?
“Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, has been widely criticized for claiming that Sweden would achieve “herd immunity” by the end of May. “But a recent study found that just 7.3 percent of Stockholm residents tested positive for coronavirus antibodies at the end of April. “I think herd immunity is a long way off, if we ever reach it,” Bjorn Olsen, professor of infectious medicine at Uppsala University, told Reuters.” (National Review)
But there’s more to this story than meets the eye. Not everyone who is exposed to the virus manifests an antibody response. According to Sunetra Gupta, Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology at the University of Oxford (who produced a rival model to Ferguson’s back in March),
“The antibody studies, although useful, do not indicate the true level of exposure or level of immunity. First, many of the antibody tests are “extremely unreliable” and rely on hard-to-achieve representative groups. But more important, many people who have been exposed to the virus will have other kinds of immunity that don’t show up on antibody tests — either for genetic reasons or the result of pre-existing immunities to related coronaviruses such as the common cold.
The implications of this are profound – it means that when we hear results from antibody tests, the percentage who test positive for antibodies is not necessarily equal to the percentage who have immunity or resistance to the virus. The true number could be much higher. Observing the very similar patterns of the epidemic across countries around the world has convinced Professor Gupta that it is this hidden immunity, more than lockdowns or government interventions, that offers the best explanation of the Covid-19 progression:
“In almost every context we’ve seen the epidemic grow, turn around and die away — almost like clockwork. Different countries have had different lockdown policies, and yet what we’ve observed is almost a uniform pattern of behaviour which is highly consistent with the SIR model. To me that suggests that much of the driving force here was due to the build-up of immunity. I think that’s a more parsimonious explanation than one which requires in every country for lockdown (or various degrees of lockdown, including no lockdown) to have had the same effect.”
Asked what her updated estimate for the Infection Fatality Rate is, Professor Gupta says, “I think that the epidemic has largely come and is on its way out in this country so I think it would be definitely less than 1 in 1000 and probably closer to 1 in 10,000.” That would be somewhere between 0.1% and 0.01%”. (“Sunetra Gupta: Covid-19 is on the way out”, unherd.com)
Gupta makes a important point, but it needs to be better explained. If, for example, “just 7.3 percent of Stockholm residents tested positive for coronavirus antibodies at the end of April”, that does not mean that only 7.3% of Stockholm residents are immune. No. Some people have an innate immunity (due to their genetic makeup) or have “existing immunities” linked to prior infections like SARS. Gupta believes that immunity is more widespread than is evident by the results of antibody tests. This suggests that the percentage of Stockholm residents that are immune could be much greater than we think. Given the virulence of the infection, as well as the interaction of the city’s population, Stockholm could be very close to herd immunity already. The decline in “new cases” strongly suggests that immunity is blocking the spread of the pathogen which means the virus is gradually dying out. If that’s what is currently taking place, then Sweden will likely be spared a “second wave” of the pandemic.
Sweden’s Economy: Not so hot
Sweden’s economy is expected to contract at a rate that is comparable to that of its neighbors. Check out this excerpt from an article at NPR:
“Even without a nationwide lockdown, the Sweden’s economy has taken a hit as people continue to follow their government’s guidelines and stay at home….Sweden’s central bank, the Riksbank, provided two potential scenarios for the country’s economic outlook in 2020.
“Despite the comprehensive measures both in Sweden and abroad, the economic consequences of the pandemic will be considerable. The consequences for the economy will vary depending on how long the spread of infection continues and on how long the restrictions implemented to slow it down are in place,” the Riksbank said in a statement in April.
Both scenarios predict a rise in unemployment rate and a contraction of the country’s gross domestic product. The central bank expects unemployment to rise from 6.8% to 10.1% and GDP to shrink by up to 9.7% this year as result of the pandemic.” (“Sweden won’t reach herd immunity in May”, NPR)
Bottom line: Sweden is going to face a deep recession just like the countries that implemented harsher measures. (ER: NPR is another version of MSM, looking to bash Sweden. Perhaps the economic figures need to be gathered in the fullness of time instead of simply assuming Sweden will take an equivalent economic hit to other countries.) So what was gained by bucking the trend?
Maybe nothing, but I expect it will be much easier and less costly for Sweden to gear-up to full capacity than any of the lockdown states. And Sweden will not have to deal with disruptive shutdowns due to sporadic outbreaks like we’ve seen recently in Germany, South Korea and China. In fact, this could be a recurrent problem in countries that put their hopes in contact tracing or quarantines. In contrast, Sweden bet the farm on old-fashioned immunity developed through controlled exposure of younger, low-risk people who strengthened their own natural defenses by interacting with their friends and families as they normally would. It’s clear, they made the only sensible choice.