In the end, the Swedes really did have the last laugh with a relaxed Covid approach

They never give up. The finger waggers who know what is good for the rest of us; the epidemiologists trying to intimidate us with their seemingly terrifying but actually rather trivial models of applied mathematics. The vested interests in the NHS creating excuses for the inefficiencies inherent in the system.

If we already have restrictive measures, we need more. If we don’t have them, we need to be introducing them right now, or preferably yesterday.

Like a stopped clock, their admonishments and predictions are occasionally correct. But for the most part, they are not.  

Fortunately, Sajid Javid is the Health Secretary and not Matt Hancock. Javid has the intellectual confidence to point out that while the experts can always offer him advice, he is also always free to reject it. This is exactly as it should be and ministers, democratically elected, should not be pushed around.

Still, it is worthwhile confronting their arguments, even though there is a distinct feeling of déjà vu.

As I have argued in these columns almost since the pandemic began, Sweden is an excellent counterexample to those who want us to be masked up and locked down almost as soon as daily Covid cases show any signs of increasing.

Unlike most of the projections from the epidemiological models, this has proved to be a successful prediction. Sweden continues to perform well.

Swedes have been able to go about their daily lives in a normal manner throughout the pandemic. These have been some restrictions, but these have been minor.

Sweden has only just over 10 million people, compared to the 67 million in the UK. But in both countries, the vast majority live in cities. Indeed, a slightly higher percentage of Swedes live in urban areas than we do. So the potential for the virus to spread in densely populated towns and cities is just the same.

In Britain, we have seen 139,000 Covid deaths. When you adjust the Swedish numbers to account for different population sizes, their equivalent number was 96,000 – two thirds the level of the UK.

In the past week, daily deaths in the UK have averaged well over 100. In Sweden, there have been less than 10.

We might usefully consider what we might have done if the miraculous vaccines had not been invented.

In 2020 we lived under a mixture of freedom and partial or total lockdowns. The size of the economy shrank by nearly 10 per cent.

The cost of the furlough scheme between March 2020 and September 2021 was £69bn. It would simply not have been possible to continue with these measures.  

The economy would never have recovered. The furlough scheme could not have gone on without threatening the financial stability of the British state. Eventually, millions of jobs would have been lost.

The education of both school and university students would have continued to suffer major disruption and damage.

Sooner or later, we would have had to abandon lockdowns. We would simply have been forced to learn to live with the virus one way or another.

Just like the Swedes. And they seem to have come out of it rather well.

As published in City AM Wednesday 27th October 2021
Image: Flickr

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