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Is Sweden’s Lax Approach to Coronavirus the Right Call? Posted by on Apr 1, 2020 in Culture, Current Events, environment, Living in Sweden, Multimedia, Politics, The Swedish blog team

Sweden is making headlines for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s not because of their swift action in restricting social behavior and ordering mass closures, rather, it’s the opposite. Sweden’s relaxed approach to this public health crisis is garnering attention and critique on a global scale.

Jonathan Nackstrand - CNBC Stockholm Diners

Jonathan Nackstrand – CNBC Stockholm Diners

What’s the latest in Sweden?

According to the World Health Organization, Sweden has 4,028 cases of the virus and 146 deaths.  398 new cases were just confirmed yesterday on March 30, 2020, the single-most reported in one day thus far. The metropolitan area of Stockholm has the most cases, not surprisingly. Despite this, bars and restaurants are still serving patrons, elementary schools are holding class, and public transport is still ticking. On the other hand, Sweden’s neighbors Denmark and Norway have followed suit to most European countries by closing their borders and going into total corona lockdown.

But what precautions is Sweden taking? 

Jonathan Nackstrand, CNBC. “Strandvägen in Stockholm, March 28.”

Limiting gatherings to 50 people, down from 500, was just announced on Friday. People are told to avoid socializing if ill or over 70 years old, and to avoid non-essential travel. Anders Tegnell is Folkhälsomyndighetens, the Swedish Public Health Agency’s, lead epidemiologist, and a key figure in Sweden’s national response to the coronavirus. Tegnell says that Sweden’s strategy is to slow the spread of the virus so as not to overwhelm the healthcare system, without resorting to complete and total shut downs for as long as possible, stating that citizens are indeed adapting behaviors and taking the situation seriously. 

“Sweden has gone mostly for voluntary measures because that’s how we’re used to working,” Tegnell said. “And we have a long tradition that it works rather well.”

But are the tides turning?

Derek Robertson is a journalist for The Guardian living in Malmö.  In his piece “‘They are leading us to catastrophe’: Sweden’s coronavirus stoicism begins to jar,” Robertson compares Sweden to other countries in Europe, saying the conditions in Sweden feel surreal. He cites a couple of Swedish health experts who are beginning to panic, stating that Sweden isn’t doing enough to flatten the curve of the pandemic. Robertson writes:

“Orla Vigsö, a professor of crisis communications at Gothenburg University, sums up the dilemma. “People are starting to ask: are others stupid and paranoid? Or is Sweden doing it wrong?”

So how do Swedes feel about this?

It seems that Swedes feel a little conflicted about the idea of going about their almost normal routine in the wake of a global pandemic. Generally though, there is a lot of trust in the government and public institutions in Sweden.  Robertson cites Simon Strand a 30-year-old business consultant in Östermalm, Stockholm, “There is no reason to believe the authorities are not paying attention,” he said.

Most Swedes I’ve spoken to are behaving really conservatively, staying mostly and home, limiting social time and travel. But after following the progression of this conversation in Sweden, I have to say I’m a bit critical of Sweden’s response to the coronavirus. It seems based on statistics from other European countries, that they are only going to see conditions worsen and infection rates rise. 

What do you all think? Comment below!

For more vocabulary on CoronaVirus in Swedish, visit 8sidor.se’s article “Frågor om Corona.

Sources: “No lockdown here: Sweden defends its more relaxed coronavirus strategy.” CNBC Online. Ellyatt, Holly. 30 March 2020. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/30/sweden-coronavirus-approach-is-very-different-from-the-rest-of-europe.html

“‘They are leading us to catastrophe’: Sweden’s coronavirus stoicism begins to jar.” The Guardian. Robertson, Derek. 30 March 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/30/catastrophe-sweden-coronavirus-stoicism-lockdown-europe
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About the Author: Chelsea B

Chelsea is a Swedish language instructor and translator living in Minnesota, U.S. She has a degree in Scandinavian Studies from Gustavus Adolphus College and has experience living and working in Sweden from north to south! In her free time, she enjoys cooking, hiking, listening to music, and practicing slöjd, the Swedish word for handcraft.


  1. Jahan:

    A big mistake
    They must enforce a strict quarantine to avoid a catastrophic situation

  2. Alan Maurer:

    I truly hope that this lax approach will not backfire.
    I have many friends in Sweden and do not want to see
    anyone get sick.
    Alan R. Maurer, MD

  3. Gezilecekyerler.com:

    Your posts is great. I follow you regularly.I recommend your website to everyone. Thanks

  4. LM:

    I encourage you to read this excellent article:

    • Chelsea B:

      @LM Hej! That’s a good article! Tack för sharing 🙂

  5. Mismo Kooggeer:

    I admire the serenity of the Swedes enabling them to resist hording. But, I think the officials, both political and scientific, are serving their constituents poorly. Social distancing is important in limiting the pandemic. Charts of infections in Sweden are not encouraging. Take a look here: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/sweden/