Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven criticized the use of face masks to protect against the spread of the novel Coronavirus in a press conference on May 13. Lofven stated that wearing masks bestows a “false sense of security” upon wearers and that as a matter of fact does not protect against contracting COVID-19.
The Swedish PM stated that the ‘false sense of security’ that wearing face masks provides might lead users to neglect social distancing practices and other health practices.’
As most of the world took to shutting down their economies, enforcing nationwide lockdowns, restricting international travel and even mandating mask wearing in several places, the Swedish approach is focused around giving Swedish citizens more control over how they choose to respond to this pandemic.
“We start throughout using the methods we always use in public health, having sort of a conversation with the public, putting a lot of trust in the public and giving a lot of responsibility to the individuals which is exactly what our communicable disease laws are telling us to do,” Tegnell said in an interview with the President of the International Center for Journalists, Joyce Barnathan.
The nordic nation’s approach has focused more on advising citizens to wash hands, not to touch the face and to social distance. Furthermore, according to the American Institute for Economic Research, only 10% of Swedes have been wearing masks during this pandemic.
While an analysis of contractions and deaths coming out of Sweden will need to be conducted in the future to get a true understanding of the effectiveness of the Swedish approach, in comparison to many nations who have effectively shut down their economies, Sweden has kept their economy open.
Bloomberg economics expects the Swedish economy to shrink 5.6% in 2020 compared to 8.1% for euro zone nations. However, this approach has come at a cost as Sweden has a relatively higher death rate compared to neighboring nations.
Despite the higher death rate, the head of the World Heath Organization’s emergencies program, Michael Ryan, said on April 29 that, “if we are to reach a new normal, in many ways Sweden represents a future model,” wrote Bloomberg News.
While the United States and numerous nations around the globe form plans to open up their economies, ease lockdowns and have their citizens return to a sense of normalcy, Sweden’s approach may prove to be a more sustainable approach through the current COVID-19 pandemic and for future outbreaks to come.
The Swedish strategy is sustainable for a long, long time,” Tegnell said in the interview.
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