When the architect of Sweden’s controversial strategy for combating the coronavirus, a strategy that involved voluntary social distancing measures and no lockdowns, admitted that he would have done things differently knowing what he knows now, proponents of lockdowns and other heavy handed measures pounced, accusing Sweden of admitting that it was responsible for the thousands of additional deaths when compared with its neighbors.
The country’s top epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, later clarified that his comment wasn’t intended as an admission: while he might have favored certain other measures he said he had ‘no regrets’ about Sweden’s approach.
At last count, the country had nearly 4.9k confirmed deaths (4,854 to be precise). But a public poll released Saturday found that Sweden’s ruling party has retained its broad popularity despite the higher mortality rate, as its decision to skip lockdowns remained largely popular. The survey was taken in late May, according to the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper, which published the data in partnership with Sifo.
The party had the support of 30% of voters, compared with a reading of 31.7% in May, according to the poll by Sifo in newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. That difference is within the poll’s margin of error. The Moderates, the leading opposition party, also gained in popularity during the pandemic and had the support of 19.5% of voters in the poll.
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has been the target of criticism from political opponents because of his government’s controversially soft lockdown policy. His party has seen large political gains during the crisis, despite the resulting high mortality rate.
“The recent criticism against the government doesn’t seem to have affected the Social Democrat Party to any larger extent,” Toivo Sjoren, head of opinion at Sifo, told the newspaper. The Swedish government is still benefiting from the Covid effect, he said.
It’s only the latest indication that Sweden’s governing Social Democrats remain in a strong position, popularity-wise, despite criticism over Tegnell’s handling of the virus.
Meanwhile, other scientists have stepped up to praise Sweden’s approach, while the WHO announced, then later walked back, that several recent studies had affirmed that cases of ‘asymptomatic transmission’ – when a patient with no symptoms spreads the virus to another – appear to be very rare.
Of course, if this is true, it would have potentially radical policy implications.
However, the WHO has spent much of the last week walking back a statement on the research from one of its top scientists while warning that the outbreak is getting worse, not better, despite progress in western Europe and the Greater New York Metropolitan Area.