With three words, Sweden’s King Carl Gustaf captured the panic engulfing his country as it backflips on a controversial herd immunity strategy and coronavirus case numbers explode.
On Instagram, he wrote, simply: “Hold on tight!”
The message is echoing around the Nordic breakaway nation which, up until now, has run a distinctly different race to its neighbours who locked down hard when the pandemic breached its borders.
It signals a complete reversal of a policy that allowed Swedes to govern themselves in the hopes that life could go on as normal.
Life did carry on as normal and it looked like Sweden might be vindicated for its strategy. But in the past few weeks, the country of 10 million has been smashed by COVID-19.
There were 6000 cases in a single day last week and hospitalisations are rising faster than anywhere else in Europe.
Sweden has banned gatherings of more than 8 people as a second wave of coronavirus continues to grow. “Don’t go to gyms, don’t go to libraries, don’t host dinners. Cancel,” Swedish Prime Minister Lofven said. https://t.co/szpGswWwwF pic.twitter.com/GxohtcXUVs
— Scott Gottlieb, MD (@ScottGottliebMD) November 17, 2020
The death toll is following predictably behind. The Washington Post reports that Sweden’s per capita death rate is several times higher than in Finland, Denmark and Norway – all of which locked down early.
It is believed roughly one-in-five people in Stockholm are infected.
With numbers exploding, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has been forced to swallow his pride and admit that he got it wrong.
At a news conference on Monday, he did just that, telling reporters: “It is a clear and sharp signal to every person in our country as to what applies in the future. Don’t go to the gym, don’t go the library, don’t have dinner out, don’t have parties – cancel!”
And with that, Sweden’s experiment was officially crushed. But critics say it was never going to succeed.
Number of confirmed deaths per day rising rapidly in Sweden. From 3 on Oct 21, to over 30 on Nov 9. And, for those who graph shows decrease, it doesn’t. Shaded bars are dates were deaths are still coming in. With 100 new deaths reported today, these lines will only go up. pic.twitter.com/D809DhFj7O
— Christian Christensen (@ChrChristensen) November 19, 2020
Australian man and COVID-19 long-hauler David Steadson, who worked as an epidemiologist with the University of Queensland before moving to Sweden 20 years ago, told news.com.au the Swedish model rested too heavily on the wishful thinking that Swedes would keep themselves safe.