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Sweden 'Literally Gained Nothing' With COVID Approach

The country's economy wasn't shielded, but its top epidemiologist says time will tell
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 8, 2020 11:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – Much has been made about Sweden's rejection of a lockdown and the high death rate that ensued. Per Reuters, the country had logged 5,447 deaths as of Tuesday, out of a population of 10 million—meaning its death rate is well above that of the US and its Nordic neighbors. But the New York Times takes a look at how the country has fared in another realm: the economic one. Did keeping restaurants, stores, and gyms open give its economy a boost? The answer is not just no, according to Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. "They literally gained nothing," he says. The paper illustrates that by comparing Sweden with Denmark, whose central bank predicts its economy will contract by 4.1% this year. The prediction from Sweden's central bank: a 4.5% contraction.

And unemployment in Sweden still jumped, from 7.1% in March to 9% in May. As for the drivers, the Times points to the fact that Swedish companies were hampered by restrictions abroad and related supply-chain hiccups, and people still curtailed their shopping over virus-related fears. The Times offers this: "Here is one takeaway with potentially universal import: It is simplistic to portray government actions such as quarantines as the cause of economic damage. The real culprit is the virus itself." But Bloomberg reports Sweden’s top epidemiologist thinks the naysaying is premature. Anders Tegnell, who recommended against a lockdown, insists we're still in the beginning stage of the pandemic and that keeping a country largely open while emphasizing social distancing is the only realistic path forward. "There is no way of knowing how this ends," he says. (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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