And the government’s choices enjoy broad support. Only a quarter felt that authorities should have given public health higher priority than the economy. Anders Tegnell, the state epidemiologist who has been the architect of Swedish strategy, was voted ‘Most Important Swede of the Year’ last week by readers of Sweden’s leading supermarket magazine.
That’s not to say the virus hasn’t wreaked havoc – nearly 15,000 people have died in total, around 1,450 per million. But this death rate is lower than the average for the European Union as a whole (1,684), and much lower than that of France, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom.
Some now admit that Sweden did not become the uplifting story many predicted.
“Many times I would have thought the situation would have been different, but it worked for Sweden,” said Samir Bhatt, professor of public health at the University of Copenhagen and team member at Imperial College which drove the UK containment strategy.
“They were successful in controlling the infections; they’ve managed to keep infections relatively low, and they’ve had no health care breakdown. “
The real benefits of Sweden’s sweeping policies, however, can be seen in the economy, the psychological impact, and in the schools.