Tonight on Foreign Correspondent, Lisa Millar looks at Sweden’s approach to coronavirus, which did not entail lockdown.
With a a population of 10.3m Sweden has seen over 65,000 cases and 5,280 deaths.
In Sweden they’re doing a ‘lockdown lite’.
The bars and restaurants have never closed, primary schools and child-care centres have stayed open.
There’ve been some restrictions: high schools and universities are closed and aged-care facilities have been locked down. But social distancing and working from home are voluntary, recommended by a Government which trusts its citizens to do the right thing.
The architect and public face of Sweden’s unique approach is the country’s chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell. His regular briefings, constant media appearances and ‘I’ll do it my way’ approach have made him a national hero.
“Before this crisis – he was like nobody for the Swedish people – now he’s a rock star”, says Gustav Agerblad, who’s chosen to get a permanent reminder of Anders’ achievements – a tattoo of the epidemiologist’s face inked on his upper arm.
“I want to have the free will of my own and I really put the high price on that”, says Gustav.
But has Anders Tegnell got it right?
Reporter Lisa Millar presents a profile of a country debating the value of human life as the death toll mounts.
Compared to its Nordic neighbours, who enforced mandatory lockdowns, Sweden’s death rates are high. Its fatality rate is five times that of Finland, Norway and Denmark.
When we finally meet the man at the centre of the storm, he insists that his plan is working.
“This is a bit like having an ocean liner and trying to steer it with a lag of three or four weeks”, Anders Tegnell tells us. “We basically still think that this is the right strategy for Sweden.”
A visit to a Stockholm aged-care home, a sector which has borne the brunt of the virus, reveals staff struggling to cope with the demands of caring during Covid -19, and residents trying to remain calm.
And we meet Mirrey, daughter of a former Syrian soccer star who is devastated by the untimely death of her father who contracted and died from COVID after attending a church service.
After the elderly, it’s Sweden’s migrant communities who are suffering the highest death rates.
Mirrey blames the government for being slow to ban big gatherings.
“If it hadn’t been for that recommendation, then my dad would have been alive today.”
8pm tonight on ABC