The story is not new. Since the vast majority of European citizens retreated to their homes, the case of exception has been the victim of attention, doubt and even admiration: in Sweden, the measures taken were milder than in the rest of the countries, social distance was a recommendation and not an order and the terraces opened even earlier than normal, to take advantage of the unexpected good weather that spring brought.
Anders Tegnell, the epidemiologist who heads the Public Health Agency, has been the main face of the Swedish response to Covid-19. An answer that only closed secondary schools, which kept gyms, restaurants, cafes and bars open and only banned service at the counter, who authorized major events as long as they did not exceed 50 people and who, at one point, ensured that group immunity would be achieved in May.
Currently, Sweden has more than 20,000 infected and 2,462 fatalities. In comparison with neighboring countries, Denmark has just over 9,000 cases and 443 deaths, Finland has 4,906 cases and 205 deaths and Norway has 7,680 cases and 207 deaths. Even in comparison with Portugal, which has a population similar to that of Sweden, the Scandinavian country has less than 4,000 infected but more than twice as many Portuguese fatalities.
The measures taken by the government of Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, always under the baton of Anders Tegnell, have had the main Achilles heel in homes and nursing homes, where most of the deaths recorded in the country are verified. This week in interview to The Guardian, Sweden's foreign minister assured that "it is not yet time" to judge the Swedish strategy. “There were many misunderstandings. We have the same goals as any other government. As we have always said, we are perfectly ready to enact more restrictions if the population does not follow these ”, explained Ann Linde, who justifies the high deaths in homes with the possibility that health recommendations have not been followed.
This week, CNN writes on the Swedish strategy and cites Anders Tegnell's interview with the BBC, where the epidemiologist indicates that the country will be better prepared for an eventual second wave of the pandemic because many people have already been exposed to the virus. “We believe that we have already passed the peak”, guaranteed the leader of the Public Health Agency, who again defended that the more relaxed approach “worked in some aspects”. The problem is that it was precisely on the topic of people who were already exposed to the disease that Tegnell was already wrong in the accounts. Emanuel Karlsten, a journalist freelancer, revealed that the epidemiologist made the accounts as if Stockholm, the capital, had six million inhabitants when he concluded that one third of the people in the city had already been infected and that for each confirmed case there were a thousand undetected. This Thursday, the same journalist again revealed a new error in the official charts.
on one article published on the personal website, Emanuel Karlsten revealed that, in a report published by the Public Health Agency, the figures did not match the official figures released in the daily update: in the published report, there were almost 400 less fatalities. The journalist also reveals that he alerted the body to what happened and that the report was promptly replaced, without indicating the elements that were wrong and with the simple change in the table in question. Questioned by Karlsten, the government guaranteed that it was a “human error”.
The two consecutive errors undermine the factor considered crucial in the Swedish strategy: confidence. The people's confidence in the government, confidence that the government is making the right decisions and doing the best and the necessary for public health; and the government's confidence in people, confidence that they will fulfill social distance, avoid unnecessary travel and prove that more rigid and watertight measures were not necessary. For now, that confidence seems unshaken: there is even news in a young Swedish man who tattooed Anders Tegnell's face on his arm to establish recognition by the epidemiologist.
However, and although the figures theoretically indicate otherwise, Swedish officials continue to believe in the model they have chosen. They believe that the rest of the countries are just postponing the inevitable, something that will happen during the next phase of deflation, and that Sweden is now prepared for a possible second wave. Almost as if all of this were a world cup with all the countries in which the best strategy wins in the final. The truth is that, regardless of opinions, the trophy will not be awarded until some time.