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Oh Sweden

Written By: - Date published: 9:53 am, May 16th, 2020 - 108 comments
Categories: Europe, health, health and safety, human rights - Tags:

Just when we thought liberal democracies meant real freedom was an absolute written into human rights stone, by mid-March this year almost all OECD countries had implemented the most draconian reversal of lockdowns on every single human being at a combination of school, university, workplace, bars, music events, sport, travel, public transport, public events, regional travel, and, well, breathing funny.

And what’s the social democratic exception?

Sweden.

They just played it cool and went voluntary everything. Sure, some restrictions like no gatherings over 50, no bar service, distance learning. But not locked in your bedrooms and studies grounded like a child by the Great Patriarch State.

And total-surveillance apps? Pfft.

They retained freedom and dealt with it like grown ups.

There’s nothing official-policy like on herd immunity, but Anders Tegnell their chief epidemiologist at Sweden’s Public Health Agency has projected that the city of Stockholm could reach herd immunity as early as this month.

The Stockholm University mathematician has calculated that 40% immunity in the capital would be enough to stop the virus. By June.

Unlike most other countries I can think of, they have preserved a semblance of economic and social and political normalcy – and kept their per capital death rate lower than that of Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

They haven’t protected their elderly and immigrant populations well.

In hindsight the country’s higher death rate in limited areas of the population will be small compared to most.

We’ll be as much a global outlier for the opposite reason: we gave up the most freedom with the least consultation, got our economy smashed the fastest and hardest – and came out with few deaths and no herd immunity at all. Just sheer governmental force delivering sheer purity.

For almost all other countries in the world, containment was doomed unless the state took every ounce of freedom that it could from you.

When the second wave comes, Sweden will have the worst of this behind it.

Sweden has boosted immunity among the young and healthy while also flattening the curve. The country’s intensive care units have not been overrun, and even stressed hospital staff had not had to juggle daycare for their children because daycare and lower schools stayed open.

New Zealand and Sweden and probably Taiwan are going to be the epidemic policy petri-dish for the world in 2021. Donald Trump slagged Sweden off but is pretty much trying to go down this path – despite the sensible resistance of officials given they will hit 100,000 dead in about 10 days.

Within 6 months the world will look back (it’s never fair these comparisons, but they’re going to happen), and they will look back on difficult measures:

  • Deaths
  • Bankruptcies
  • Layoffs and unemployment
  • Suicides
  • Mental health diseases
  • Losses to gdp and investments
  • Health system costs

They will all feed into the rights and wrongs of how to deal with the next one that’s coming as sure as the sun rises. Estimates from the OECD suggest that every month of pandemic-related restrictions will shrink the economies of advanced countries by 2%.

It’s going to be worse here and in Australia. If we worried about the left-friendly governments getting smashed after the GFC and big populist uprisings to the right after the GFC, well, this is much worse and the breeding ground for more Trumps awaits.

If other countries follow the Swedish path to herd immunity, the total cost of the pandemic will decrease, and it will likely end sooner. Without herd immunity developing and a vaccine not apparent, the wave will keep rolling across the globe.

Now, Sweden is a high-trust environment, and that’s helped. We’re more high-obedience apparently.

And Swedish people are generally healthier than us or many other countries on average. We’re poorer, fatter, more heart-sick, more diabetic, and smoke and vape more. Their policy would not be too good here on those counts. We were right for us.

But we lost so much freedom so fast, so much of our economy so fast, and this kind of thing doesn’t come back for years. We shouldn’t be cocky – we should recognise that we are much more of a policy outlier than Sweden is.

Sweden has made missteps. But their emphasis is likely to be the future global emphasis: helping people stay safe and out of harm’s way rather than locking the entire society down. Without a vaccine for a long time, protecting the vulnerable and going for herd immunity is the likely path.

As we have seen even in obedient New Zealand, the pain of lockdowns grow just intolerable on all kind of levels. So managing rather than defeating the virus is going to be what pretty much every other country except New Zealand is going to be doing.

Sweden is showing the world what surfing the curve of the virus and the curve of freedom really looks like.

108 comments on “Oh Sweden ”

  1. Pat 2

    an article of self contradictions

    • KJT 2.1

      Agree.

      Sweden economy doesn't, so far appear to be doing any better than its neighbours.

      Ours may well recover, faster.

      Bit soon to say.

  2. lprent 3

    The real question is if there is such a thing as herd immunity with covid-19, and if any natural or conferred immunity lasts very long. None of the coronaviruses seem to trigger lifelong immunities. Most seem to only get an immunity for a few years.

    At this point this is simply unknown with covid-19. Sweden has taken a bet that it exists. It is going to be interesting to see if it does.

    If reinfections can occur in a short term, the Europe will probably find out as a second wave starts to roll over area. In the longer-term we're just going to have to wait.

    But as francesca has pointed out above, there isn't that much difference between the swedish economic contraction and that of its neighbours.

    Personally I prefer our approach of simply excluding the virus. Which we can do because our domestic economy and our export economies are so separated.

    Sure we lose the tourism, immigration, and overseas students parts of the economy and the domestic structure that clusters around that. Personally I think that is a positive element bearing in mind that those are always the unstable portions of economy.

    Changes in international security, international economy, and aircraft kerosene prices seem to afflict all of them at least once every decade and drag our economy downwards. And then there is the economic impact of providing facilities and cleaning up after the millions of visitors go through every year, a cost that always seems to wind up on the taxpayers. Either during construction, infrastructure development, cleaning up the pollution and trash, or cleaning up in the inevitable downturns and business failures.

    • McFlock 3.1

      Thing is, we don't even necessarily need to lose longer-term things like immigration or overseas students. 2 weeks quarantine and largely sorted.

      Like with the pipe specialists for Wellington.

    • Grant Insley 3.2

      Stole my comment! So far the jury's out on herd immunity. It's an assumption thus far. 'We' simply don't know enough about the damn thing. Regarding Sweden, who is going to want to tour around a country ridden with it? Which country will trade with them without the strictest of quarantine measures.

  3. mickysavage 4

    I enjoy Ad's writing and most of the time agree with him. He also is very good at starting a debate.

    I agree that NZ now has a second crisis, presuming we have stopped the spread how do we keep the virus out.

    But the cost in terms of deaths using the Sweden approach would in my opinion have been far too high.

    • Ad 4.1

      I sure ain't recommending Sweden's approach for us.

      We did what was right for us.

      But being a global policy outlier is brittle .

      • mickysavage 4.1.1

        Aye and I agree two years from now we can look back and say what would have been the best result with some certainty.

        For this fascinating analysis of what happened in NZ up to the lockdown there is this Matt Nippert article in the Herald behind the paywall (https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12332156&fbclid=IwAR1j595Ba0LmtUIHPUHFwR3X3fL9QedDSUUdI3o5GoZKAL7qAidp48eNhQA)

        His conclusion was that policy formulation by the public service was completely new.

        "A senior government figure said the pace with bewildering: "New information was arriving faster than we were able to make decisions, which were quickly being made obsolete."

        It was as if test-match cricketers suddenly found themselves playing a T20 super over."

        • Incognito 4.1.1.1

          They were scrambling and the ‘good’ thing is that they managed to shield the general public from this very fact. I guess it was because everybody was scrambling, including the press and Opposition. Makes you think about the uncertainty and confusion in and of countries first hit such as China and Italy. Makes you also think of countries that are still floundering such as the US and UK.

        • Craig H 4.1.1.2

          I am on the board for a national sports body, and we were attempting to make decisions by email during work days, and the speed of events and decisions was absolutely unprecedented. Some of our decisions had effectively been made for us before everyone had voted.

    • New view 4.2

      Basically The US is doing what Sweden is doing but under cover. In my opinion. What’s a few dead, they were going to die soon anyway. As Sweden is finding out it’s not quite as clear cut. Other side of the coin shows that when the virus does get into their community, and ours again, they will have some herd immunity and we won’t. (Please vaccine now if it’s available.) Micky has basically said this and I agree. Where I have some doubts is how easily we say, oh tourism, we don’t really need that unless we make it environmentally friendly. Typical leftist romantic bullshit. By the time you get that sorted like in five years you might have tourism but not with the same people. They will be gone. New people may be there but the old ones will be gone, and so will be half the tourism income which is considerable and pays for our pothole and sewer repairs. I know, collateral damage it’s not me, they’ll learn. It’s just not that simple, like stopping farmers using fertiliser. Give them aVIABLE alternative and they will use it. This country is going to have to live on half its pre Covid income. Every one will miss out on something and it won’t be pretty or popular.

      • Muttonbird 4.2.1

        Disagree with all of that. It's clear you have no idea what you are talking about.

        • new view 4.2.1.1

          Muttonbird. My idea was that because the US has tried to deal with the virus in a late half arsed way the result will be the virus working its way through the community with the same result as Sweden. I should have left Sweden out of the comment as they tried to consciously control the disease patterns whereas areas like New York have been a disaster. Common sense tells us we can’t keep the virus out indefinitely so yes we have to have a vaccine or alternatively we maybe all end up with enough antibodies that the virus effects are not so devastating. Until that happens our borders will be closed or inconvenient to use. what ever happens with tourism here, environmentally friendly or not the loss of so much income can’t help but affect the growth and the infrastructure re build that this country needs. In my opinion that is, even though in your opinion I don’t know what I’m talking about and you so clearly do

        • Alfie 4.2.1.2

          It's hard to know what informs you, New View. Posting like a bot with a bad attitude with lines like "Please vaccine now if it’s available" suggest you may be woefully misinformed on this subject. There is no vaccine and there probably won't be for years.

          Herd immunity is also unproven. Despite your "common sense" assumption that we're all going to get infected, our little country is actually proving otherwise. I'm surprised you haven't noticed as the numbers are published daily. If you feel like mixing your reading with something a little less Q-orientated, I can recommend Newsroom as a great source of covid information, all factual and well worth checking out.

          https://www.newsroom.co.nz/

          • new view 4.2.1.2.1

            Alfie. I’m Well aware that there’s no vaccine. Was just another way of stating that we needed one. Obviously went over your head. I’m aware that my post was not clearly written and have tried to clarify my points in my reply to muttonbird.

            • Alfie 4.2.1.2.1.1

              Obviously went over my head, NV. In my defense I blame all those virologists and epidemiologists I've been reading lately, filling my head with their facts and theories. Or else it's possible that your "leftist romantic bullshit" line just put me off what you were trying to say. Thankfully I didn't take your "I don’t know what I’m talking about" line to Muttonbird out of context.

              I can see flaws in the proposal that tourism will survive just by wishing it were so. That international market has 100% vanished and it will not return in a hurry. It will take years rather than months and it's unlikely to reach previous saturation levels. So of course our economy will suffer. Nobody was disputing that.

              What I do take issue with is your wild claim that any desire to reinvent tourism in an environmentally sensitive manner must be some sneaky greenie plot. Because while covid is a nasty beast, climate change is going to affect all of our lives a hundredfold more. We've moved on from "environmentally friendly"being a branding exercise to being essential to our planet's survival.

              And that alternative to fertiliser you're looking for is called regenerative farming. There's lots of info online and NZ tests so far have been really positive. 'Sustainable' doesn't have to be a dirty word, especially when the practice also improves returns for farmers.

              • New view

                Wrong Alfie. "to reinvent tourism in an environmentally sensitive manner must be some sneaky greenie plot."you said that, not me. Yes we need to downsize tourism back to an environmentally acceptable situation, but doing that will come at a huge human and economic cost. Im not sure where the 16.2 billion dollars it used to make is going to come from and what of all the tens of thousands of workers that will become unemployed. Those who have the luxury of writing these posts on this subject, including me, obviously don't try to earn a livelihood in that industry. As for your Fert comment, I agree with you until you are faced with living the dream. We won't be applying fertiliser this year because all available finance has gone towards buying supplementary feed because of the drought in HB.

      • Tricledrown 4.2.2

        Novel ideas only an pessimist could come up with

        Given they are already trialing vaccines.

        It's easy to be flippant and aloof when your life is not at risk.

        [There was a typo in your user handle at the client side]

      • I Feel Love 4.2.3

        There is no evidence of herd immunity.

    • infused 4.3

      i bet our suicide rate is higher right now. theres 3 that are public. add in all the mental health issues and i doubt covid would be a bigger issue.

      we will never lock down again. the govt saying we will are playing chicken

  4. bill 5

    If Sweden had better protected those in aged care facilities…

    My understanding is they tend to house large numbers of people, meaning that a lot of people get exposed when the infection hits a rest home.

    If we and others had not slashed and burned our health care systems…

    We wouldn't have had to panic about being overwhelmed and 'flattening the curve'. At the end of the day, when infection rates have abated and all the deaths in various countries are tallied, will there be much or any difference between Sweden and others?

    Why is New Zealand sending children out on to the front line on Monday? There was some nonsense about how children are kinda magically immune to a virus that spreads through the air, via surfaces and even (apparently) infects cats.

    There are now reports, that make no mention of incubation periods, of children exhibiting symptoms that are different to those exhibited by adults…

    • Jeremy 5.1

      DeCode Genetics in Iceland looked at the genetic code in a huge number of the samples of the virus they had, and tracked all the tiny mutations in the samples to see how the virus had spread throughout their population. They were able to track the spread on a person to person level and the origins of the virus into Iceland (mainly the UK and ski fields in the EU). They didn't find a single case of the virus being passed from children to parents. Not. One. Case. It was always the other way around – parent to child.

      Healthy children seem to have approximately 1 in 5.43 million chance for dying from one of the serological studies I looked at the abstract for. That is essentially as safe as any activity on Earth, children have more chance of being struck by lightning at school. Every school on planet earth should be open now and should have been open the whole way through this. FFS, schools in London stayed open during the blitz.

      Children's immune systems are simply burning through this virus when they get it because it is a incredibly mild virus for them.

      There were some reports of children "getting" Kawasaki disease due to Covid-19, but every time I looked at the reports or tried to find any pre-prints it turns out that the rates of incidence are the same or lower as an average year. The WHO came out within the last 2 days and said as much. This is similar to the nonsense about unusual blood clots being caused by Covid-19, whenever you look at the reports they are anecdotal at best and seems to be almost exclusively related to ICU cases where a lot of things are going wrong with your body at once – blood clots are exceedingly common in ICU patients. These are largely fictions of a mass media which, starved of its overflowing field hospitals and mass graves, has to invent ever more hysterical ways of keeping people scared.

      It's now time to admit the truth that the world has stuffed up the global economy so badly that it will cause at least an order of magnitude more deaths due to secondary and tertiary, etc. effects than the virus itself can cause. Our response has also caused many to now start acting with classic symptoms of clinical anxiety and even cultist behaviour that will make leaving lockdowns exceedingly hard and even more destructive. These excess deaths will be borne in the main by bottom 20% in developed countries and almost everyone in the less developed countries. We've done this for a virus that is highly likely to end up as the 5th cold causing coronavirus after it's novel nature has wreaked it's havoc and we all develop the Memory B and T cells to deal with it in subsequent encounters with our immune system.

      All of this was and is incredibly obvious, and at the risk of sounding like a twat, is exactly what I was saying almost 2 months ago on this site when it was heresy.

      • Incognito 5.1.1

        I wouldn’t call it heresy but hyperbole. None of what you wrote passes the evidential test in the absence of any links. In fact, it all sounds like an amateurish interpretation of stories flying around on the internet and thus your opinion. Reading tealeaves and inspecting entrails would be informative and have higher entertainment value.

      • David McCarthy 5.1.2

        Thanks for that Jeremy, your post reads as a breath of fresh air in this Covid-19 debate.

  5. RedLogix 6

    This is an interesting story about how unpredictable this virus is:

    Five sailors on the ship docked in Guam after a COVID-19 outbreak have gotten the virus for the second time and have been taken off the ship.

    The resurgence of the virus in the five sailors on the USS Theodore Roosevelt underscores the unpredictable behaviour of the highly contagious virus and raises questions about immunity.

    All five sailors had previously tested positive and had gone through at least two weeks of isolation. As part of the process, they all had to test negative twice in a row, with the tests separated by at least a day or two before they were allowed to go back to the ship.

    While this is not conclusive, it's an strong indication of just how much we don't know, and as you say how any country going down the herd immunity route is taking a gamble.

    Still I do appreciate Ad's sometimes provocative posts; it may well turn out Sweden has managed to get through this immediate crisis with rather less economic damage than others have incurred.

    But that does not make them immune to other global trends that COVID19 has accelerated; one nation alone is an interesting data point, but still be swept along a torrent of disruption no-one can resist.

    • Jeremy 6.1

      We've already seen this before, all the "reinfections" in South Korea presented in the same way. The South Koreans determined that they were all cases were the virus was dead in the person's system and being picked up by the PCR after a negative test or two or a false positive PCR test. (I read a news report rather than the pre-print for this).

      Over 4 million cases globally and not a single proven case of reinfection, and all other similar respiratory diseases give a period of immunity of at least a year or two – it is overwhelmingly likely this one will too.

      • Drowsy M. Kram 6.1.1

        Jeremy, can you quantify "overwhelmingly likely" – for example, would humankind have to suffer ~5, 20 or more novel coronavirus pandemics before we encountered one that was capable of significant reinfection and/or did not elicit effective immunity for “at least a year or two” post-infection? Given the limited data on the medium-term effects of a range of Covid-19 viral loads on human immune systems, tissues and organs, a precautionary public health response is prudent, IMHO.

        COVID-19 and Postinfection Immunity
        Limited Evidence, Many Remaining Questions
        [11 May 2020]

        "However, whether immunity occurs among individuals after they have recovered from COVID-19 is uncertain. Many human infections with other viral pathogens, such as influenza virus, do not produce a durable immune response."

        "Reinfections can occur with at least 3 of the other 4 common human coronaviruses—specifically, 229E, NL63, and OC43—all of which generally cause milder respiratory illnesses. The reasons for this reinfection are not fully known, but evidence suggests that possibilities include both short-lived protective immunity and reexposure to genetically distinct forms of the same viral strain."

        "In summary, existing limited data on antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 and related coronaviruses, as well as one small animal model study, suggest that recovery from COVID-19 might confer immunity against reinfection, at least temporarily. However, the immune response to COVID-19 is not yet fully understood and definitive data on postinfection immunity are lacking. Amidst the uncertainty of this public health crisis, thoughtful and rigorous science will be essential to inform public health policy, planning, and practice."

        https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766097

  6. Sweden 3,646 deaths @ 361/million

    New Zealand 21 deaths @ 4/million

    The logarithmic graph used skews the data to make it look like Sweden has flattened the curve; non-logarithmic graphs are much less flattering. The log graphs seem to be much favoured by the "it's time to get back to normal" brigade.

    Advantage-in order to have the same death rate as Sweden please send me a list of the names of the 1,800 New Zealanders you deem expendable.

    • Ad 7.1

      Let's see how long we can hold up Fortress New Zealand for.

      We did what was right for us, but at very high long term risk.

      • Bearded Git 7.1.1

        Eating out at a restaurant last night with no Covid risk felt pretty good. You can't do that in Sweden.

        • Muttonbird 7.1.1.1

          Yep. The NZ screen industry is also doing very well to advertise what we have done well which is to provide a safe environment for people and productions.

          I would not call providing a safe environment for people high risk at all.

          • Muttonbird 7.1.1.1.1

            Here's a great article about how a proactive industry is appealing to offshore interests based on New Zealand's approach. NZ's approach has been to make it safe for everyone.

            Rather than it being a high risk approach as the author suggests, it is an approach which could be the envy of the screen industry worldwide.

            Industry insiders tell Spy they are expecting a boom in an overseas production filming in NZ over the next year and beyond.

            https://www.nzherald.co.nz/spy/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503840&objectid=12331925

            Can't see Sweden's film and TV industry bouncing back like this.

      • Graeme 7.1.2

        Will get interesting if / when the Fortress New Zealand model becomes cause for trade sanction.

        You don't let our tourists / immigrants in without quarantine, we won't let your exports in.

        But that could be a while down the track and a lot could change in that time with vaccines or the international order and security. Lifting up the drawbridge has given us space / distance and time. We can change as the world changes around us and take the most appropriate course as things settle with less human, and probably economic cost. Sweden with 361 deaths / million pop. doesn't have that luxury if their strategy proves wrong.

      • Tricledrown 7.1.3

        That doesn't add up if a vaccine becomes widely available given the technology available and comparative research on other epidemics .This will give us a huge advantage .

    • Marcus Morris 7.2

      Where did that figure of 361 million come from? The population of Sweden is roughly twice that of New Zealand.

      • dv 7.2.1

        World meter give the figure of 361 deaths per mill. for sweden.

        Total deaths sweden -3646

        Will imply a population of 3646/361 x 1m

        ie 9.5million
        NZ pop is 4.9 million

        ://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

  7. AB 8

    "We’ll be as much a global outlier for the opposite reason: we gave up the most freedom with the least consultation"

    I completely disagree with this. We temporarily gave up some freedoms in order to gain a much larger one – freedom from the risk of catching a deadly infection. The lock-down therefore created more freedom than it removed, and for that reason the vast majority of us were entirely happy with it. Unless we understand this, we are going to echo right-wing framings of the notion of freedom, and get ourselves into all sorts of bother.

    • Francesca 8.1

      Yep

      Give me freedom or give me death !

      vs

      Give me freedom And give me death!

    • bwaghorn 8.2

      We better hope the nats dont get back in government then,they will let it back in for sure.

    • infused 8.3

      you could get any other disease tomorrow. or far more likely, die in a car crash

      • McFlock 8.3.1

        Firstly, most deaths in NZ are medically-related, not injury-related, even for children.

        Secondly, if you are alive today you will almost certainly live through tomorrow. Even if you're a pensioner. Everyone dies, but we only do it once.

      • Incognito 8.3.2

        Are you more likely to die in a car crash in Sweden than from COVID-19? The excess mortality rate suggests differently.

        You seem to be missing the point that we here in NZ have a low death toll from COVID-19 because of intervening actions. It sounds like you’d rather wish for a fucked up economy, which was going to be fucked up anyway, plus a much higher case fatality rate!?

  8. Peter 9

    Saying on January the 1st this year, February 1st or March 1st what June 1st would look like would've been guesswork.

    Saying on May 16 what September 16 or December 16 or May 16 2021 will look like is the same.

    Of course we didn't have to be outliers – we could have just followed what others did. Or asked them what to do. If being an outlier sees a result that isn't desirable we will condemn those who had the guts to make the big calls.

    The big lesson from that? Don't go to walls of experts with their particular perspectives, go to the comfortable keyboard warriors. We know it all.

  9. woodart 10

    with a virus that has only recently jumped species and is still evolving, herd immunity is unlikely for quite a while. havent heard of herd immunity for polio…..

    • Incognito 10.1

      The polio vaccination program provides herd immunity. It would not be a wise strategy to let people become infected with polio in order to develop immunity; Simon Bridges had a quote for that 😉

      • weka 10.1.1

        Might turn out not to be a wise strategy for covid-19 either, looking at some of the emerging medium and long term health and disability consequences of being infected. I also gather that longer immunity is conferred from more severe infections.

      • Gabby 10.1.2

        The disease might be worse than the illness.

  10. AB 11

    We know why right wing governments have done somewhat worse in the crisis than leftish ones – on the whole and with outliers and exceptions. Put crudely, right-wing governments represent and prioritise the interests of the people who own and run the private economy. That economy is a conveyor belt that transports wealth up to those owners and executives. So there is a strong disincentive against hitting the kill switch on the conveyor belt, even temporarily.

  11. McFlock 12

    We might actually get out of this thing with a lower than expected mortality rate for the year, which would definitely be an outlier.

    I suspect "herd immunity" (i.e. "let the disease take its course but we'll pretend it was a cunning plan of ours") is a fall-back justification for what was essentially a failed Swedish policy.

    It wasn't necessarily an unreasonable policy, but it's becoming evident that Sweden's taking a bigger hit in mortality than its neighbours for a negligible preservation of economic activity. And some of the excuses for that mortality rate come awfully close to the UK/US arguments that it's not so bad because of the specific groups who are beeing killed off disproportionately.

  12. Drowsy M. Kram 13

    "Unlike most other countries I can think of, they have preserved a semblance of economic and social and political normalcy – and kept their per capita death rate lower than that of Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom."

    Have been keeping an eye on the Swedish Covid-19 stats – at worldodometers, of the 'major countries', Sweden currently has the sixth highest number of Covid-19-attributed deaths per million population (361), slightly but securely 'ahead' of the Netherlands (329) in seventh place.

  13. Janet 14

    I am glad that our government chose the “protect” way to handle Covid19. It is not just the elderly at risk but people like one of my grandchildren, born very premature and as a young adult still sometimes prone to severe asthma. The government has ”invested” by helping her through her difficult times from the day she was born so why would they then not protect what they have invested in. We can recover from a damaged economy ; we cannot recover from death.

    The Landlord in Auckland who reduced rents up to 80 % is a wonderful example of the wealthy helping to share the economic load. In times like these no one should be looking to make a profit and all those who could have should have shared the economic load. Even the banks – 0% interest would have meant sharing the load , car insurance companies – because there was little risk to them through Lock-down … and so on.

  14. Tiger Mountain 15

    The post premise is essentially an apologia for neo liberal hegemony. Begrudging a non market approach by the Govt. to C19 which rather ironically, in the form of the Labour Caucus, is still loaded to the gunwales with people that if not ideological neo liberals, are in thrall to institutional neo liberalism.

    A lot of issues have never been dealt with since Roger’n’Ruth swung their wrecking ball through provincial NZ and the manufacturing sector. The underclass, the “tail” that has haunted this country since the mid 80s, are the children of Roger Douglas–never seriously retrained, repurposed, or given hope.

    In recent years did people really need all those trips to Bali, and Buenos Aires for the weekend? No they fucking did not. Younger people often travel to compensate for not being able to buy a house or shake off student debt. Excessive Tourism, a service economy, and freedom for global movement of capital, but not for labour, have been well exposed by the virus lockdown. We need a full manufacturing sector in this country, and various other self sufficiencies.

    Advantage’s post is rather heartless and arrogant under the guise of contrarianism. That is thousands of kiwi lives you are talking about.

    • I Feel Love 15.1

      yes, #alllivesmatter so to speak, personally I'm glad we have a leader that didn't sacrifice anyone for the economy.

  15. calltoaccount 16

    Hey, sorry to ask, but is there text with this post? All I see is the header picture with ‘Oh Sweden’ and comments. So am I missing the article on my phone, or is the post an ‘Open Mike’ style chance to comment with no article?

    • I Feel Love 16.1

      I get that on my ph too, I have to look at it on my computer, just some articles it seems to happen too.

      • calltoaccount 16.1.1

        Thanks for telling me that. Hopefully Lynn Prentice or someone can fix?? I don’t have a computer handy tbh. On an IPhone SE 1, latest iOS

        • weka 16.1.1.1

          I'll let him know.

          Have you tried switching between desktop and mobile versions on your phone?

          • calltoaccount 16.1.1.1.1

            Thanks Weka, desktop view worked in that I can see the article and comments. But, to make a comment I have to go back into mobile view. The problem in desktop view being that the main comment text box won’t let me place my cursor within it. Anyway, thanks!

            [Corrected e-mail address]

          • Graeme 16.1.1.1.2

            I've got the same setup and have had the odd post show the same behaviour with the mobile version, desktop is fine.

  16. RedBaronCV 17

    Well I went out for the first time this week since lockdown and the main difference seemed to be the absence of the edgy fear that was present just pre lockdown. That fear would go on and on for the vulnerable groups with all the flow on poor outcomes if we hadn't got it down..

    I for one think this freedom and all the legal challenges are just media beat ups fueled by the RW. We are talking about a few days out of our long lifetimes. We could even go out and walk around all day every day provided we stayed in our neighbourhood. And the legislation expires in just a few weeks. How about other freedoms that are curtailed longterm, Nact used to try to prevent unions organising in workplaces – why don't we hear about that?

    And I really don't want to see some of those industries reappearing in their past forms. Tourism that consisted of a bunch of freeloaders camping all over the place while ratepayers and taxpayers funded the clean ups and private so called tertiary courses that relied upon access to work permits otherwise they would have had no enrolments.

  17. Molly 18

    Apart from the gamble Sweden are taking in regard to herd immunity, there are other factors that have to be considered.

    Cultural factors, such as physical expressions of greeting, and day to day interaction, would be much less than in our Pacific nation, a melting pot of cultures that where close contact greeting and interaction is the norm.

    Over 40% of Swedish households are single occupancy, the next highest cohort was around 20% – couples living alone without children. This would have an impact on both community transmission and isolation success when diagnosed.

  18. barry 19

    Horses for courses.

    It is unreasonable to expect that Sweden could eliminate the virus, given their location. A comparison with NZ is meaningless.

    A better comparison is with their Scandinavian and Germanic neighbours. Economically Sweden is slightly better off, but they have got worse health outcomes. Their health system has largely coped (which can not be said for some other countries).

    In 6 months or a year we will know if they have got it right. Will they be better placed due to having more people immune? We don't know yet. The advantage from being right will be huge, but the overall cost they are paying now will seem like a lot if they are wrong.

    The equation is very different for NZ as we have (almost?) eliminated the virus at very reasonable cost (comparatively). The cost of no international travel is real, but less for us than it would be for Europe. What we do have now is TIME. Time to repair/rebalance the economy and time to wait and watch to see how things play out elsewhere. We don't have to gamble like Sweden, nor would their outcome be superior to what we will have under any forseeable circumstances.

    There will be a vaccine. Probably not this or next year. Probably the first incarnations will be dangerous (killing 1 in a thousand perhaps) and we can afford to wait for generation 2 or 3. In any case the advantage of having a large percentage of the population immune through having had the disease will not last.

    It is not as if we will be the only place with no virus and low immunity. We will be able to travel to other like-minded countries soon (Australia, S. Korea, all the Chinas, most of the south pacific, perhaps more over time).

  19. weka 20

    "Now, Sweden is a high-trust environment, and that’s helped. We’re more high-obedience apparently."

    Not sure about that. We all did voluntary stay at home for the first two weeks with no law in place to enforce that. My reading is we by and large trusted the government.

    Also not sure about the whole we lost all our freedoms line. Really, what freedoms are we missing this week? The funeral one is big, but if people can't handle not being able to go to a bar they probably need to revisit what freedom means.

  20. Adrian 21

    On Kim Hill this morning Jonathan Epstien an Eco-biologist who is studying the relationship of Chinese bats and local residents interactions reckons that 3% was the level of immunity they got to the viruses the bats carried. Good luck to the muppets who know fuck all.

    • In Vino 21.1

      And despite Barry's confidence, I see no guarantee that a vaccine will for certain be developed. A lot of people are counting a lot of unhatched chickens.

      • Incognito 21.1.1

        Yup, AKA putting all your eggs in one basket.

        • McFlock 21.1.1.1

          Thing about NZ's approach is that its failure simply puts us in the same boat as everyone else. And if there's no vaccine, sooner or later it will fail.

          But in the meantime people live who would otherwise be dead.

          I must read up a bit more on Fabius Cunctator. I seem to be particularly receptive to his ideas at the moment.

  21. Graeme 22

    The line that Sweden's economy is humming along fine may not be quite reality. Going by this piece in our local paper, written by an ex local, their domestic airline industry is effectively shut down because no one is going out.

    Discussing the photos in media of open high streets in Stockholm with a Swede I know he said that level of foot traffic was the equivalent of Queenstown in a quiet June, those businesses would be bleeding money. His impressions from home were that the place had slowed as much as here.

    Swedes only need to be asked by their government to stay at home (suggested might be closer), we need to be told.

  22. Muttonbird 23

    This post uses the phrase 'herd immunity' six times and the word 'freedom also six times.

    Is the widely discredited concept 'herd immunity' nothing more than, in the absence of a vaccine, throwing all the people who are going to die into harms way? They die off and the virus finds it harder to kill the rest.

    I looked up the definition and vaccines were a huge part of it. Sweden doesn't have a vaccine.

    As for freedom. Not being able to go to the local butcher (which is a dying concept anyway), or get a flat white really didn't bother me. I did not once feel 'not free'. I did though feel I was participating in an exercise for the greater good.

    This is something ingrained in all true lefties…

    • In Vino 23.1

      I know what you mean, Muttonbird – but I am really pleased that my local butcher has opened up again. Supermarket meat is rarely aged properly, and generally bloody inferior, even if one is a Leftie..

      • Muttonbird 23.1.1

        It could be about convenience, IV.

        I probably have 6, 7 or 8 supermarkets within a 2km radius. Butchers, I would struggle to name more than one.

        • In Vino 23.1.1.1

          Same for me with supermarkets – I am lucky that this last butcher is left, and intend to support him with my massive purchase power. Unfortunately, I live alone, and don't do meat every night, so I am of little help in the big picture.

  23. Muttonbird 24

    I also think you can judge a society by the way it treats its most vulnerable. Sweden threw them to the wolves. NZ didn't.

  24. newsense 25

    I'm not able to see this article for some reason, only the comments?

  25. calltoaccount 26

    Hey Ad, I have to take issue with your comment “Without a vaccine for a long time, protecting the vulnerable and going for herd immunity is the likely path.” Specifically, protecting the vulnerable.

    In NZ, how would we protect the vulnerable in practice? And do it in a way that doesn’t amount to locking them up? Those in a (safe??) care home get to survive, but look out through a window at the rest of us enjoying our freedom, while those vulnerable still out in the community (many) face a day to day risk of exposure.

    In reality, these good people who have paid taxes for years to pay for our freedoms, will in all likelihood like Sweden face a higher chance of dying in exchange for the rest of us being ‘free’.

    I actually think it is thoroughly wrong to even suggest such a thing to be honest. We are a team of five million, and everyone needs to play like one.

    [Corrected e-mail address]

    • weka 26.1

      Ad was talking about other countries that missed the elimination boat I think. But I agree, I've yet to see any meaningful detail on what protecting the vulnerable looks like. Certainly haven't seen disabled people and elderly centred in that conversation.

  26. DS 27

    Death tolls:

    Sweden: 3646

    Denmark: 537

    Finland: 287

    Norway: 232

    Iceland: 10

    Yes, there are population discrepancies, but one of these is not like the others…

  27. "Herd immunity" is trumpian, johnsonian rubbish talk. It means we do nothing. Some will become ill, some will die, So what?

    • Ad 28.1

      It's working for almost all other public infections and viruses we have had.

      It includes vaccinations.

  28. Oh those Sveedish eh!!!! They are sho very very COOL. They are so very very progreshive as well – I wish we could be just like them. I lay awake at night wondering about the differences between the Keevee and Svedish psyche.

    I want to be at least as Cool as they are. I think we probably should have put our policy in the hands of a Svedish mathematician so we could be just as COOL. Those Svedes eh …. they are so very laid back man. They are very very well assimilated and secure in who they are. Oh so COOL man

    I imagine there are quite a few geriatric and disabled Swedes yearning for the compassion and policies of that little nation at the arse end of the Whurl that punches above its weight as well

  29. Chris Jackson 30

    This seems to be a case of wedging Sweden in to fit a particular ideology. We still don't know the profile for immunity to COVID 19. For example, how much antibody is required for immunity and how long it will last. Herd immunity always feels like a strategy that is largely aimed to keep capitalism staggering on at the expense of the most vulnerable in society. I'm all for utilitarian ideas, but not when I don't know the other side of the equation. https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/covid-immunity-unknown-1.5553229

  30. infused 31

    we've fucked up. its that simple. theres going to be so much pain for so many to come

  31. dv 32

    Interesting article in stuff

    Economists at the University of Copenhagen have found lockdowns have had little impact on consumer spending habits and that the true dampener of purchasing activity is the coronavirus itself.

    Transaction data for 830,000 Danes and Swedes from the second-largest Scandinavian bank found aggregate spending dropped by 25 per cent in Sweden and 29 per cent in neighbouring Denmark, which instituted a lockdown.

    Denmark has had 10,713 cases of Covid-19 and 537 deaths, while Sweden has seen 28,582 cases and 3529 deaths.

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/world/europe/300014591/coronavirus-new-paper-calls-into-question-benefits-of-swedish-covid19-strategy

  32. JG 33

    So who would like to visit Sweden right now and enjoy their thriving tourisim industry? Especially now most of their resorts are closed. I imagine all their European neighbours can't wait to go there and enjoy all that freedom!

  33. SDCLFC 34

    Three names: Denmark, Norway and Finland

    Make Sweden look silly, and this opinion piece

    • Incognito 34.1

      I think you may have misunderstood the Author and you wouldn’t be the first one. Ponder the two comments @ 4 and 4.1 if you don’t mind.

      • Muttonbird 34.1.1

        Ad does need a lot of understanding, that is for sure.

        • Incognito 34.1.1.1

          Heh! He makes you work, doesn’t he?

          • Muttonbird 34.1.1.1.1

            He's wafty. A privileged Queenstown Lakes stream of consciousness. Lots of holes which are seldom scrutinised.

            It would help if the mods hauled him up every now and then…

            Anyway, looks like Sweden spending shrunk a similar amount to its neighbours. The neighbours protected their vulnerable though.

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