The World Health Organization said lessons could be learned from Sweden – now its daily deaths are soaring

Sweden was seen as a model for countries tackling coronavirus without economic disruption

An earlier version of this article had an incorrect daily death toll. It has been corrected.

Sweden kept pubs and restaurants open while neighboring opted for more stringent measures.


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Sweden’s policy of keeping schools, restaurants and businesses open while practicing social distancing to prevent the coronavirus pandemic from spreading was seen as bold, but now it has the highest deaths per capita in Europe from COVID-19.

Sweden’s daily death toll per 1 million people is now 8.71, compared with 4.59 in the U.S., and is much higher than its neighbors such as Denmark or Norway, according to online publication Our World in Data.

Unlike many other countries, Sweden kept children in school and its pubs and restaurants open, while banning large gatherings and encouraging citizens to practice social distancing.

Initially, it saw similar numbers of deaths and rates of transmission as other European countries without putting its economy on hold, and the World Health Organization said there were lessons to be learned from the country.

Read:Why Sweden’s relaxed stance toward coronavirus will be difficult to replicate elsewhere, Goldman Sachs analysts say

Now, Sweden’s daily coronavirus deaths are the highest per capita in Europe, calling into question the success of its relatively relaxed approach as new cases and deaths elsewhere begin to slow.

President Donald Trump criticized the Nordic country’s handling of the crisis in April, saying: “Sweden did that, the herd, they call it the herd. Sweden’s suffering very, very badly.” Trump was referring to the controversial strategy allowing a “herd immunity” to the spread of a contagious disease to build up in a community when a sufficiently high proportion of people has been infected and recovered.

He also tweeted: “Despite reports to the contrary, Sweden is paying heavily for its decision not to lockdown. As of today, 2462 people have died there, a much higher number than the neighboring countries.”

But some American politicians praised the model, with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul saying in early May: “We need to observe with an open mind what went on in Sweden, where the kids kept going to school.”

Read: Vodka, saunas, lockdown resistance and a gradual return to normal life: The countries taking a different approach to the coronavirus pandemic

Sweden‘s neighbors Denmark and Norway closed schools and shut borders on March 12.

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