Long a holdout from COVID restrictions, Sweden ends its pandemic experiment

Like other Europeans, Swedes are now heading into the winter facing restrictions ranging from a ban on large gatherings to curbs on alcohol sales and school closures—all aimed at preventing the country’s health system from being swamped by patients and capping what is already among the highest per capita death tolls in the world…

“Authorities chose a strategy totally different to the rest of Europe, and because of it the country has suffered a lot in the first wave,” said Piotr Nowak, a physician working with Covid-19 patients at the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm. “We have no idea how they failed to predict the second wave.”

Last week Sweden’s total coronavirus death count crossed 7,000. Neighboring Denmark, Finland and Norway, all similar-sized countries, have recorded since the start of the pandemic 878, 415 and 354 deaths respectively. For the first time since World War II, Sweden’s neighbors have closed their borders with the country.

“We don’t like to say that Sweden has been the black sheep, but it has been the different sheep,” said Vivikka Richt, spokeswoman of the Finnish health ministry.