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To a certain extent, yes strategy was determined in part by outside measures. Or rather, any response to a pandemic is determined by the structures you have going in. Which underlines your point about the importance now to set the EU-structures for the next pandemic.

Another part of the Swedish government structure is somewhat independent government authorities. The legislature legislates the laws they follow, the cabinet details the tasks in fomral letters and appoints the head of the authority. That is it. The minister of health is forbidden to issue any another orders to the authority, that would be ministerstyre, which is grounds for impeachment.

So on the press conference where the eight person rule was announced, the prime minister and the health mininster were (if you speak Swedish legalese) very clear that in all rules the cabinet can directly decide it will be eight people. And they expect all relevant authorities to come to the same conclusion. In effect, there are a lot of rules where the cabinet does not have power, and it would take to long to change the rules, in particular when you are a minority government. However, Sweden has a heavy layer of consensus culture on top of the structures so usually people go along.

Why make faulty predictions? Well, most predicitions turn out wrong, but there still needs to be predictions. There was a large and hidden spread in early March, which created a lot of faulty inputs. The actions taken mid-March did break the growth in spread, ICU admittances peaked two weeks later and deaths four weeks later, but at much higher levels then expected due to the hidden nature of the early spread. When the main crisis was over for the hospitals, testing was expanded in June, creating a false impression of an increase. That increase in tested cases was the tail end of the first wave.

Comparing Sweden with neighbouring countries is in my opinion not illuminating. Sweden had much more cases then Finland, and Finland had a lockdown. But France had also much more cases then Finland and they both had lockdowns. Is Sweden better compared with Finland then France? My view is, that if effective measures are taken, the main factor is the amounts of real cases when action is taken. And since that was largely hidden there was a fair amount of bad luck involved.

To demonstrate the importance of luck: Sweden's densest populated county - Stockholm - had half the deaths in Sweden during the spring, while the second densest populated county - Skåne - had a fraction of that. Under the same rules. I think it is obvious that Stockholm had a much larger outbreak before action was taken. If the rest of Sweden had looked like Skåne the story would be about how the Nordic countries managed to avoid the pandemic (until they didn't). My personal theory on why Stockholm had such a large outbreak is the Swedish sport break. That break is in different weeks in different locations, and Stockholm probably managed to hit the worst week and probably had more people going skiing in the Alps.

by fjallstrom on Thu Nov 19th, 2020 at 02:07:09 PM EST
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