Health: After Delay, Covid-19 Hits Sweden

The Story:

The prime minister of the Kingdom of Sweden, Stefan Lofven, reported last week that a person close to him had come into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19. As a consequence, Lofven and his wife, Ulla, “will stay isolated for the time being.” This comes as a number of metrics are going in the wrong direction for Sweden, a country which earlier in the history of the global pandemic received favorable attention for what seemed to be a successful and rather laissez-faire response.


This spring, as schools, restaurants and gyms in much of Europe closed, those in Sweden stayed open. There was some talk of herd immunity as the goal of this openness.

For a time, too, the government claimed that its policy of business-mostly-as-usual was proving a success. Others outside the Kingdom pointed to it as a positive example. In June, Sweden saw the start of a rise in infection rates, but at first many (in the country and abroad) attributed this to increased testing and the special case of nursing homes.

In Pill Form:

Lofven’s self-quarantine suggests a more general fact: the Swedish experiment now appears to have been a miscalculation. For the week beginning October 19, Sweden reported an increased infection rate of 63% over the week before, or in absolute terms 9,165 new infections. The overall death toll has passed 6,000. (For purposes of comparison, the death toll in nearby Denmark is just 729.)

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