Economists: Swedish COVID experiment didn’t save jobs or lives

Jul 9, 2020, 7:53 AM
STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - MAY 21: A general view as people take part in the Ascension Day Church Service ...
STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - MAY 21: A general view as people take part in the Ascension Day Church Service at Gustav Vasa Church on May 21, 2020 in Stockholm, Sweden. Sweden, a country of about 10 million people, has maintained more of an open society as it grappled with the coronavirus pandemic. It is one of several European countries observing the Ascension Day public holiday on Thursday. (Photo by Linnea Rheborg/Getty Images)
(Photo by Linnea Rheborg/Getty Images)

When many of the world’s governments began shutting down as COVID-19 began knocking on their doors in March the Swedish Government didn’t.

Giving the benefit of doubt to their citizens, they let them make their own decisions on whether to stay home and lock up their businesses. It was an experiment (in a country with socialized health care), a gamble, and certainly, the path most did not take in front of a looming pandemic.

Now, 3 months later, we have the results on if their path made a difference. 

A New York Times report says that 5,420 people have died in Sweden due to COVID-19.  That’s in a country of 10 million, which is about the population of the state of Georgia.  As of Wednesday, Georgia had 2,871 deaths from the virus.

Adjusted for population, per million people, the Times says Sweden has suffered 40% more deaths than the United States.  It’s also had 12 times the deaths of neighboring country Norway, 7 times more than Finland, and 6 times more than Denmark. 

How about Sweden’s economy?  Did the lack of lockdown save them from financial losses? From the Times article: “They literally gained nothing,” said Jacob F. Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “It’s a self-inflicted wound, and they have no economic gains.”  Sweden’s central bank thinks its economy will shrink by 4.5%.  The Sweedish unemployment rate has also jumped by almost 2%.  Oxford Economics thinks their recovery will be long and unemployment will be protracted. 

According to a couple of other recent studies, Sweden’s citizens are to thank for mitigating more dire consequences. Forbes cites an analysis that found nearly a third of Swedes “voluntarily self-isolated… And the results of that were less catastrophic than many  predicted.”  Bloomberg reports on July 7th that virus infections in Sweden have been steadily trending down since the middle of May, due to self-imposed social distancing. 


How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronaviruses transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A

Utah’s Coronavirus Information

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States


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Economists: Swedish COVID experiment didn’t save jobs or lives