Sweden’s Herd Immunity Strategy Backfires After Cases of COVID-19 Skyrocket

While Sweden had previously opted for herd immunity to defeat the coronavirus, the Scandinavian country has now decided to take stricter measures in view of the sharp increase in Covid-19 cases.

COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 Pandemic

Stricter measures in Sweden

Sweden, a country of 10.3 million inhabitants, is facing a dramatic increase in contamination and deaths, including 208,000 cases of coronavirus and 6,406 deaths as of November 23rd. The country has grown from 600 new cases per day to over 4,000 within a few weeks. Hospital services fear saturation, especially as intensive care admissions are increasing, averaging 20 admissions per day. In response, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announced measures that were “unprecedented in the country’s modern history”. As of November 24, it is now forbidden to visit the retirement homes in Stockholm and Gothenburg and to meet in public with more than 8 people. The sale of alcohol will be prohibited from 10:00 PM. The use of public transport and sports halls is strongly discouraged. In order to stop the spread of the coronavirus, these new restrictions should apply for at least 4 weeks.

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In the spring, the Prime Minister categorically refused to lockdown, make wearing masks mandatory, and close businesses. He was convinced that through self-discipline (teleworking, social distancing, and handwashing) it would be possible to defeat Covid-19 without going through the strict measures that the European neighbors were taking. He now begged the residents to respect the rules: “Don’t go to the gym, don’t go to the library, don’t organize dinners or parties at home. Cancel everything. And do not try to bypass the recommendations.

The failure of herd immunity

Sweden was surprised in March by the decision not to lock down its population, a strategy that contradicted all European strategies. After opting for the herd immunity strategy, the country was severely criticized and then admired when it managed to bring the epidemic under control this summer. However, in view of the new infections, the country seems to have changed its mind. The acquired immunity rates in the population are reportedly four times lower than expected.

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According to a specialist from the health authority, the predictions that were made assumed that a second wave would not happen, thanks to an immunity rate that is likely to be higher in the Swedish population than in populations that were locked down. According to his April estimate, 40% of Stockholm’s population would have likely developed antibodies in May after the first wave. However, only 11.4% of Stockholm’s population now have them, 6.3% in Gothenburg and 7.1% for the whole of Sweden, according to studies published by the Agency on September 3.



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