Stockholm Won’t Reach Herd Immunity In May, Sweden’s Chief Epidemiologist Says

People enjoy the spring weather in mid-April at a restaurant in Stockholm during the coronavirus pandemic.
Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP via Getty Images

Date Published: May 25, 2020

Source: NPR

At the start of this pandemic Sweden was making headlines for being one of the only countries in the world to not enforce an official lockdown. They instead enforced social distancing rules, allowing schools, restaurants and retail stores to remain open to the public, while reducing some viral spread. The Swedish government’s rationale behind this strategy was to develop faster herd immunity to the coronavirus, while minimizing economic decline. The Nordic nations no-lockdown strategy initially appeared to be no less effective as a lockdown in controlling infection rates and COVID-19 mortality when compared to other European nations. However recent data suggests Sweden’s strategy has in fact failed, with its per-capita COVID-19 death rate being 39.26 deaths per 100,000, not only exceeding that of its neighbours, Norway (4.42 per 100,000) and Finland (5.56 per 100,000), but also the U.S. (29.87 deaths per 100,000). To worsen the matters, updates from Sweden’s chief epidemiologist indicate the country will not be able to establish herd immunity based on their initial timeline for end of May. Researchers have predicted that 60% of the population needs to develop immunity to the coronavirus for effective herd immunity. Official data shows that Sweden is far off from that 60%, with only 7.3% of people in Stockholm testing positive for antibodies against COVID-19 in April. Unofficial reports state the immunity numbers have somewhat improved, predicting that a little more than 20% of Stockholm’s population is immune to the virus. Like in other nations, the majority of COVID-19 related deaths in Sweden have occurred in elderly care facilities. The Swedish government acknowledges their strategy is unique because of the strong trust between its people and its leaders and it is unlikely to be effective in other countries. They also reveal that even without the lockdown measures the Swedish economy has suffered.  Despite these numbers, most Swedes, 63% according to a recent poll, support how their government has handled the pandemic. 

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Summary by: Hira Raheel