Sweden’s economy has been hit badly, unemployment is up and many people have died unnecessarily from Covid 19 in care homes due to their Government’s slow response to the pandemic. And yet with their laissez faire approach to minimising the social and economic effects of the virus the death rate per million residents is lower than ours and their economy although damaged is in better shape. The most up to date figures are the UK’s death rate per million is 681 and Sweden’s is 580, while their economy is taking a much smaller hit with GDP down fractionally in Q1 compared to around a 19% drop for the same period in the UK.

The problem Sweden now has is due to the fear factor affecting their economy. Their residents look at what is happening in neighbouring countries and copy their behaviour by not going out, not shopping in shops and not travelling. Sweden is a big exporter of a range of goods with timber one of their classic products. With the rest of Europe in recession orders have dried up which has a knock on effect for the country’s economy. Britain, France, Spain and Italy have all had mandatory restrictions such as lock downs but are in a much worse state than Sweden who we should note has a built in restriction in their constitution which bans states of emergency reflecting the Swedes more individualist attitude to civic life.

As reported on BBC Radio 4’s More or Less programme hosted by fact checker Tim Harford Sweden kept their schools open throughout the crisis with no obvious rise in infections as a result. As in the UK almost all deaths and serious cases were in their hospitals and care homes with most deaths occurring in people aged 80 and above. Keeping schools open freed up workers to go to work and of course as an employer and consumer the education system is a key factor in any healthy economy.

Apart from Ikea, Abba and Volvos the UK can learn a lot from the Swedes. And when it comes to Covid 19 and a future outbreak this winter we should adopt some of their ideas in keeping their economy going during the pandemic. The lockdown was not for nothing as it did save lives, but it was seriously flawed in the way it was operated and has caused an unnecessarily deep recession.

Harry Mottram

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