The anti-lockdown strategy of Anders Tegnell has proven itself - English

"We didn't do that much wrong"

By Stefan Groß-Lobkowicz14.08.2020Europe

Sweden and its state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell were widely criticised because the northern EU country took a different path from the rest of Europe during the peak of the corona epidemic. But in the midst of a second wave, as predicted for Germany by the Marburg Federation, the Swedes have coped better with the crisis and, for the moment at least, are seen as the real winners.

Anders Tegnell, picture alliance / TT NYHETSBYR?N | Naina Hel?n

The world is trapped in the second corona wave

The USA are in a Corona state of emergency. The numbers are rising, putting massive pressure on Donald Trump. Australia has declared a second lockdown and Brazil remains in the deadly clutches of the virus. According to Covid-19, the global economy is in ruins and slumps dramatically by ten percent – the worst economic disaster since the financial crisis of 2009 and the post-war period. Many beaches in Europe are as if they were empty. Venice, the symbol of overtourism, suddenly seems to be extinct. Young people are robbed of their evening and leisure culture, festivals and festivals are cancelled. Soccer fans are only ghosts.

Germany – with its curfews, contact restrictions, mask and distance rules, with its corona strategists Markus Söder, Armin Laschet, Jens Spahn and Helge Braun – was unable to prevent the second wave despite its rigid exception policy and state intervention in civil liberties. The number of cases is rising and so are the deaths.

Anders Tegnell’s strategy has proven successful

While the Federal Republic is struggling with a second wave of corona, which will continue to divide the country like the refugee crisis of 2015, the strategy of Swedish state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell seems to be working. The 64-year-old Tegnell is the Nordic face on the corona front, but not in the style of the smart German virologist Christian Drosten, but rather like a Roman gladiator who doesn’t avoid his deadly counterpart, doesn’t hide, but instead bravely defies him, arguing clearly and squarely. For this tactic, Sweden’s state epidemiologist was for a long time treated like a leper for whom ethical aspects played no role in the fight against the coronavirus. He had acted negligently, put human lives at risk, played a kind of poker for the age groups particularly affected by the coronavirus, the accusations said. Surely, Tegnell is more Friedrich Nietzsche than Arthur Schopenhauer, a utilitarian who weighs up, triage does not necessarily equate to an ethical shortcoming. He is one who relies on self-responsibility instead of paternalism, one who relies on common sense instead of a culture of punishment and prohibition as in Germany. He does not think much of state restrictions on privacy, including the obligation to wear a mask, which is still not in place in Sweden. While Germany is once again disguising itself and countries like North Rhine-Westphalia are fighting against mask-shy people on public transport with a 150 euro fine for disregard, the doctor is not convinced.

Sweden relied on personal responsibility and herd immunity right from the start

In the early stages of the corona outbreak, Swedish scientists, like British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, relied on herd immunity. The virus could not be stopped, but it was important to keep the curve flat so as not to overload hospitals, was the maxim from Sweden at the time. But Tegnell also always had the social consequences in mind: The restrictions shouldn’t be too strict, so people would be willing to accept them for months. And while Germany insisted on draconian measures in March and April, Tegnell pleaded for the individual responsibility of the responsible citizen, for his insight into self-protection. “The most important thing we can do now is to stay at home when we feel sick. We say this every day and we will continue to do so as long as the epidemic continues, because that is the basis of everything we do.”

Low case numbers, low mortality…

At the height of the Corona epidemic, the Swedes had not shut down public life; schools, daycare centres and restaurants remained open. The price for this was bitter. The country with 10 million inhabitants has almost 82,000 corona infections and more than 5,700 deaths. At the end of June, the number of new infections reached a peak of over 1800. But since 9 July, the number of people infected with the corona virus has not risen above 500. At present, the daily increase in corona cases is around 300, and the trend is downward. The number of corona deaths per day has also been falling continuously since mid-April. The number of intensive care patients in hospitals is decreasing. All this is happening in Sweden at a time when the whole world is trembling with a second wave.
Sweden comes through the corona crisis better than other countries with lockdown

As it currently looks, Sweden is getting out of the corona trap better than other countries that imposed a strict lockdown. And that is also thanks to the liberal strategy of the crisis-tested specialist for infectious diseases, who earned his merits at the world’s infection hotspots literally in the sweat of his brow. “Mr Corona”, as Tegnell is known in his native country, is currently being hailed as a folk hero. The man, who appears shirt-sleeved in a T-shirt and scruffy and unpretentious, is not a Pharisee with an elite consciousness who sticks to the unconditional letter, not an apocalyptic with a doomsday mood, but a solid pragmatist who also has the courage to admit mistakes. As recently as the beginning of June, Sweden’s chief epidemiologist had admitted there was room for improvement in the government’s comparatively relaxed corona course. And even in mid-June he regretted part of his strategy for dealing with the corona virus in an interview. He said that protection against infection of the elderly in Swedish senior citizens’ institutions had failed and the death rate was “terrible”. “We probably thought that our age-segregated society would allow us to avoid a situation like in Italy, where different generations live together more often. But this proved to be wrong.”

“We didn’t do that much wrong”

In August doubts and justified self-criticism have faded. Tegnell’s strategy has paid off and perhaps pointed the way forward for other countries in the corona crisis. The isolation of old and sick people, the risk groups, was one of his primary goals, otherwise normality should govern everyday life. Keeping a distance and paying attention to hygiene measures were Tegnell’s creeds from the beginning of the pandemic, and targeted passive immunization was the goal. That is how he is convinced at the beginning of August, and the figures currently prove him right, that Sweden has not done much wrong. “I think it was a great success,” says Tegnell in an interview with the portal “” about his strategy. “We are now seeing rapidly decreasing numbers of cases, we had continuously functioning health care, there were free beds at all times, there was never a crowd in the hospitals, we were able to keep schools open, which we think is extremely important.”

Lockdown is not the patent solution

However, Tegnell is currently concerned about the worldwide increase in infections. But he has taken the wind out of the sails of the critical voices regarding his own corona strategy for the time being. While the lockdown states are very nervous in the face of the wide wave, the Swedes are largely immunized. If one were to rely on mass contact blocks in Europe, the case of Sweden shows that there are other ways. And while the lockdown in Germany sent the economy into the basement, domestic violence rose in proportion to the quarantine, the prescribed loneliness literally tore souls apart, there was no dramatic escalation of mental suffering in Sweden. Even the Swedish economy had only made a small dent in its renunciation of a total lockdown. The country only has to reckon with a drop in economic output of just 1.5 percent. Germany’s economy, on the other hand, slumped by more than 10 percent. It is an ice-cold economic slump and at the same time the most severe crisis of the post-war period.

No wonder that many a Swede is proud of his state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell and likes to have the image of the corona fighter tattooed on his arm.



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