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Understanding Sweden’s Covid-19 response and social cohesion

Opinion from UK:

Nick Cohen, “Welcome to libertarian Covid fantasy land – that’s Sweden to you and me; The right fails to recognise that the Swedes’ real virtue in this pandemic is their social cohesion,” The Guardian, September 26, 2020 (19.00 BST).

In an opinion piece for The Guardian, Cohen writes:

Sweden is to the 21st-century right what the Soviet Union was to the 20th-century left. Conservatives have transformed it into a Tory Disneyland where every dream comes true. On the shores of the Baltic lies a country that has no need to curtail civil liberties and wreck the economy to curb Covid-19. “I have a dream, a fantasy,” sang Abba. “To help me through reality.” For much of the right, that fantasy is called Sweden.

…We could look to a country that merely had a ban on gatherings of more than 50, restrictions on visiting care homes, a shift to table-only service in bars and see that “Sweden today is in a better place than the United Kingdom”. Or as the Sun explained on Thursday as Boris Johnson met Anders Tegnell, the Swedish public health “mastermind”, a do-little strategy has spared Sweden a second wave of Covid-19 infections.

It’s not true that Sweden offers an escape from the public health catastrophe. I only wish it did….

You never hear the Mail say we need Swedish levels of sickness benefit to ensure carriers stay home and quarantine
You never hear the Telegraph or the Mail say that we need Swedish levels of sickness benefit to ensure that carriers stay at home and quarantine. Or Swedish levels of housing benefit to ensure that they aren’t evicted from those same homes. The knights of the suburbs do not insist that the hundreds of thousands who will be thrown on the dole in the coming months need Swedish levels of unemployment benefit and an interventionist Scandinavian state to retrain them.

Take two people: one living in Malmö, the other in Manchester. When a Swede loses his or her job they are entitled to up to 80% of their previous salary for the first 200 days of inactivity – up to 910 krona (£78) a day for the first 100 days – dropping to 70% (to a maximum of 760 krona a day) for the next 100 days. Danes who are members of unemployment insurance funds can claim up to 90%. As importantly, Sweden is “the best place in the world to lose your job” because employers pay a levy to job security councils whose coaches seek you out and match your skills and ambitions with the market.

The fantasy land of Sweden where sickness never comes is a fairytale. By not locking down in the spring, Sweden had a more protracted outbreak with far more deaths per capita than its neighbours. Admittedly, its death rate was not as bad as Britain’s. But then no European country had a death rate as bad as Britain’s because no other European country put the village idiot in charge. Nor did the “mastermind” Tegnell save the Swedish economy. Spending fell by nearly as much in Sweden, which did not lock down, as in Denmark, which did….

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