Sweden’s decision not to lock down its economy – allowing the coronavirus to run its course while the population reaches herd immunity – appears to be working, according to the Scandinavian nation’s chief epidemiologist.
Anders Tegnell predicted herd immunity, when about 60% of a population is immune, will be reached in the capital, Stockholm, within two to three weeks.
Government officials have encouraged social distancing, banning gatherings of more than 50, and urge people over 70 or in a high-risk group to stay home. But they have not forced businesses, restaurants and schools to close, arguing people can be trusted to follow guidelines.
“In major parts of Sweden, around Stockholm, we have reached a plateau (in new cases) and we’re already seeing the effect of herd immunity and in a few weeks’ time we’ll see even more of the effects of that,” Tegnell, the chief epidemiologist at Sweden’s Public Health Agency, told CNBC on Tuesday.
“And in the rest of the country, the situation is stable,” he said.
Sweden’s number of deaths is higher than in other Nordic countries, with 16,700 cases and more than 2,000 deaths in a population of about 10 million.
Denmark, with a population of 6 million, has reported about 8,000 cases and 394 deaths. Among Norway’s 5 million people, 7,400 cases and 194 deaths have been counted.
But Tegnell said the health system “has been able to cope.”
And he said about 15 to 20% of people in Stockholm have reached a level of immunity that would “slow down the spread” of a second wave of the virus.
Swedish resident Johan Norberg, a senior fellow at the CATO Institute, argued in a Fox News interview Thursday night that the total lockdown approach of most nations aimed at “flattening the curve” only postpones the deaths.
The lockdown nations, including the United States, “won’t avoid them because there is still no argument that has been made that suddenly this disease will go away after their lockdowns are over.”
Norberg said it could take several years to develop a vaccine.
“And no society can be shut down completely and shut down the economy for more than a year without ruining society and the economy entirely,” he said.
“And that will kill many more people than the virus does.”
He said Sweden “will get through this” while protecting the vulnerable and the health care system.
“Can we manage to mitigate the disease? We can’t supress it. Can we mitigate it to the extent that we can take care of all cases and make sure that they get the best treatment?” he asked.
“Well, in that case Sweden might be through this in a couple of months while you have it ahead of you.”
Ingraham played a clip from a web interview with Swedish epidemiologist Johan Giesecke.
“Some countries do this and some countries do that, and some countries don’t do that, and in the end there will be very little difference.”