• Sweden — which has yet to order any lockdown amid the novel coronavirus pandemic — 15,322 cases and 1,765 deaths from the virus so far.
  • The virus has been nearly 10 times as deadly as in Sweden than in other Nordic countries.
  • Norway, which has half as many people as Sweden, has seen 7,191 cases and 182 deaths. Finland, which has a population similar to Norway's, has seen 4,014 COVID-19 cases and 141 deaths.
  • Charts released by Pantheon Macroeconomics show that Sweden's cases have yet to plateau, while Norway's case count appears to be on a downslide.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Sweden's controversial coronavirus strategy has led to nearly 10 times the number of deaths of other Nordic countries — and it serves as a counterargument to US citizens calling for their country to reopen.

Sweden has yet to order any lockdowns amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to AFP. The country has left schools, restaurants, and gyms open, and while the government banned gatherings over 50 people and urged residents to self-isolate, life appears to be largely unchanged.

Sweden's lack of strict lockdowns contrasts sharply with the rest of Europe, and it has yet to see a downturn in COVID-19 cases. The country — which has a population of about 10.2 million — has seen 15,322 cases and 1,765 deaths from the virus so far, making the death rate per capita at 17.3 deaths per 100,000 people.

Sweden's Nordic neighbors Norway and Finland approached the virus differently, and it could be why they're facing just a fraction of COVID-19-related deaths.

Norway went into lockdown in mid-March, closing schools, restaurants, cultural events, gyms, and tourist attractions. It also banned outside travelers. Finland, which has been stockpiling medical supplies since the Cold War, restricted border traffic, banned gatherings of 10 or more people, and closed schools as part of its coronavirus guidelines.

Norway, which has nearly 5.4 million people, has seen 7,191 cases and 182 deaths, with a death rate per capita at 3.37 deaths per 100,000 people. Finland, with a population of 5.5 million, has seen 4,014 COVID-19 cases and 141 deaths, with a death rate per capita at 2.56 deaths per 100,000 people.

For a further comparison, the United States, which has a population of 328.2 million, has seen 800,932 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 43,006 deaths, with a death rate per capita at 13.1 deaths per 100,000 people.

Anders Tegnell, the state epidemiologist who created Sweden's relaxed coronavirus response plan, told local media that the country's fatality rates show the spread of the virus is starting to "plateau," according to Bloomberg.

Charts released by Pantheon Macroeconomics, however, contradict Tegnell. Sweden's COVID-19 cases appear to still be rising, and Norway's appear to already be on a downslide.

Screenshot 2020 04 20 at 10.21.19
This side-by-side of Sweden versus Norway shows that Sweden may have made a mistake in taking a relaxed approach to lockdown.
Ian Shepherdson / Pantheon Macroeconomics

Bo Lundback, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Gothenburg, told Agence Frances-Press that a change needed to happen.

"The authorities and the government stupidly did not believe that the epidemic would reach Sweden at all," he said.

Some 2,300 academics signed an open letter last month calling for Sweden to reconsider its approach to the virus, according to Fox News.

Cecilia Soderberg-Naucler, a professor at the Karolinska Institute who signed the letter, told Fox News: "We must establish control over the situation — we cannot head into a situation where we get complete chaos. No one has tried this route, so why should we test it first in Sweden, without informed consent?"

Swedes so far have been refraining from travel, according to Bloomberg, and its foreign minister, Ann Linde, said in an interview with Radio Sweden that its rules "affect the whole society," according to Bloomberg.

People enjoy themselves at an outdoor restaurant, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Stockholm, Sweden, on April 20, 2020.
A restaurant amid the coronavirus outbreak in Stockholm on April 20, 2020.
Anders Wiklund/TT News Agency/via REUTERS

While Sweden has had more COVID-19 deaths than Finland and Norway, HSBC Global Research economist James Pomeroy told Bloomberg that Sweden's COVID-19 strategy might help its economy bounce back more quickly than it will in other countries because businesses were able to remain open.

"While Sweden's unwillingness to lock down the country could ultimately prove to be ill-judged, for now, if the infection curve flattens out soon, the economy could be better placed to rebound," he said.

This story has been updated to include death rates per capita based on information from April 21, 2020.

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