Are Critics Rightfully Claiming the Swedish COVID-19 Strategy to be of the “Russian Roulette”-Style?

The following is a project created by Evelina Dahlgren for the course, Media, Culture, and Global Politics, taught by faculty member Nina Khrushcheva.

Some claim the Swedish Covid-19 method is too relaxed, others suggest it is unorthodox. Sweden’s chief epidemiologist in charge of the country’s pandemic strategy Anders Tegnell stated that the approach is nothing but strategic, and democratic.

The egalitarian “lagom” country of Sweden—meaning that it often seeks to evade controversial political decision and stay out of the spotlight—is currently making headlines all over the world. While the Guardian alleges their Covid-19 strategy to be of “Russian roulette-style,” Financial Times refers to the method as a “huge experiment.” As the largest European country with the fewest lockdown restrictions, Sweden is undoubtedly drawing everyone’s attention.

Regardless of what one might think of the Swedish Covid-19 approach, I suggest that this tactic requires careful consideration. Some of the cultural factors that influenced the country’s strategy, include the high levels of trust in the public as well as in the institutions, the well- functioning welfare system including free healthcare and generous sick pay. And social distancing is an already functioning social norm. According to Eurostat, more than half of all Swedish homes are made up of one resident, the highest proportion in Europe.

Only history will be the judge of whether or not this liberal approach will hold up, and whether or not Sweden’s Prime Minister Löfven’s encouragement to “take responsibility for the people around you, for your fellow human beings, and for our country” is the one that the Swedish people have taken to heart. I find it very encouraging, however—as a liberal student at a progressive university—to finally study a democratic government that actually operates as such; a government that puts their trust in the people as much as the people put their trust in the government. That, in my opinion, directly reflects a democratic state. To quote Mr. Tegnell, “That’s the way we work in Sweden.

View Evelina’s full presentation here.