On Wednesday, May 6 at 19:30 GMT:
As most of the world hunkered down and tried to get used to life under lockdown, Sweden decided to try something very different.
It has not imposed social distancing. It has merely asked its citizens to voluntarily do it. Bars, restaurants, gyms and most schools remain open. People may gather in groups of up to 50. The strategy has broad support from the Swedish public but is not without its critics. More than 2,000 experts have signed an open letter calling for stronger action.
Sweden’s per capita death rate is much higher than that of neighbouring countries such as Norway and Denmark, both of which have gone into lockdown.
Critics have also accused the government of pursuing herd immunity, which is achieved when such a large percentage of the population has had the illness that it will stop spreading. The government denies that, while conceding that its plan could perhaps lead to herd immunity.
Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, who has become the face of the strategy, has said while the government is confident it has chosen the right course of action, it is not sure and is constantly reevaluating. Tegnell says the overarching goals of the policy are to ensure the health system is not overwhelmed and to have less strict measures than other countries so that those measures can be maintained over a long period.
In this episode of The Stream, we ask if Sweden’s experiment will succeed or backfire.