On Covid-19, Sweden has been told what to do

Yesterday I noticed a change in the Swedish news reporting on the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Up until now the central figure of the daily reports has been the head epidemiologist of the Public Health Agency of Sweden, Anders Tegnell, who has tried to follow a more scientific line in Sweden's response to the Covid-19 pandemic than his counterparts in other countries.  

In the beginning his 'hands off' approach found much favour with the Swedes, but not from other countries with more dictatorial governments.  The Swedish method was attacked, laughed at, treated with disrespect, and the same applied to Anders Tegnell.  And then, when it was seen to be working at least as well as the more draconian methods this criticism stopped, and Sweden was relegated to the back page of the news, if it was mentioned at all.

Sweden's handling of the problem involved relying on the good offices of its citizens in following the advice of the Public Health Agency.  From tighter restrictions on association, the first relaxation was a maximum of 50 taking part in an event - a football match as supporters, a theatre performance as audience, whatever.  In October this was increased to 300.

Notwithstanding the medial silence surrounding the Swedish method, people heard about it, heard that it was a success, and asked why their country did not try to follow the same method.  In the end, Sweden had to be stopped, brought into line.  And then came the second Covid-19 wave.  It was nothing more than a tick upwards in Sweden, but it gave the chance for a change of policy.

And yesterday it was not Anders Tegnell who led the reporting.  It was Prime Minister Stefan Löven.  Gone was the 300 participant rule.  Gone, too, was the 50 participant rule.  The new limit was 8 participants.  Eight, not seven or nine or ten.  Advent events, Christmas and the New Year, all  would be affected.  The indication was that members of the family who did not normally live together should not meet.

Why eight participants, you may ask.  Because specifying eight, as opposed to seven or nine, least of all the nice round number of ten, can give the impression that some wise government scientist has worked things out and come to the conclusion that just eight is the right number to prevent an explosive eruption of cases.  It is more believable, and thus defensible than ten.  At the same time it's enough to include most of a family, Mother, Father, two children and their children.

The change has continued.  It is still Prime Minister Stefan Löven who leads the drive to self-isolation.  I have not seen Anders Tegnell since the hard-line government take-over.

Some powerful force has told Sweden to toe the line.

My Cato paragraph*:

Additionally, I consider that research into the causes of neuropsychological disturbances in children including gender problems should be encouraged and funded with a view to eliminating them.


Cato the Elder was an influential Roman politician with a hatred of the Carthaginians.  He used to end all his senate speeches with the words "Additionally I think that Carthage must be laid in ruins".

© James Wilde 2015