In particular, Sweden seems to have failed to protect its most vulnerable citizens, in part by relying on speculative cultural theories. Authorities have argued that Swedes socialize less across generations than southern Europeans, and that Sweden could let the elderly self-isolate while merely slowing the spread of the virus among the rest of the population until so-called herd immunity is attained. (Although herd immunity is not the official strategy, some officials maintain that there is no other conceivable way to stop the epidemic, praising the original British strategy that the United Kingdom later backed away from.)

But it was never clear how this risky strategy of isolating the elderly while others got infected would work in practice. American economist Tyler Cowen sarcastically asked whether the plan for senior citizens is “encasing them in bubble wrap, or something.”

There are now alarming reports that the virus has spread to one-third of nursing homes in Stockholm, which has resulted in rising fatalities. While it is true that Swedes rarely live with their parents, older citizens are hardly isolated: The Scandinavian model simply outsources care from families to caretakers who visit dozens of clients every week. Caretakers are rarely tested for the virus but have simply been urged to stay at home if and shortly after experiencing symptoms.