Debate Magazine

Well, Yes and No.

Posted on the 27 September 2020 by Markwadsworth @Mark_Wadsworth

From The Guardian:
It’s not true that Sweden offers an escape from the public health catastrophe.
Whether you count the March-April death spike as a 'public health catastrophe' or not is up to you, but whatever you call it, Sweden seems to be out of the woods and back to normal, with an average of about 3 covid-19 related deaths per day since the end of July, that's not even a bad 'flu season. What's done is done.
I only wish it did. But, and this is when conservative commentators, politicians and conspiracy theorists look away, Sweden offers an escape from the social catastrophe now engulfing us.
And why do we have a 'social catastrophe'? In the short term, it is because of the lock down, that's clearly an economic catastrophe, which has led to a social catastrophe.
You never hear the Telegraph or the Mail say that we need Swedish levels of sickness benefit to ensure that carriers stay at home and quarantine. Or Swedish levels of housing benefit to ensure that they aren’t evicted from those same homes.
The knights of the suburbs do not insist that the hundreds of thousands who will be thrown on the dole in the coming months need Swedish levels of unemployment benefit and an interventionist Scandinavian state to retrain them.
That's circular logic. If Sweden had done full lock down, they simply wouldn't have been able to afford their high levels of unemployment benefit and retraining programmes. They can only maintain this because so few people lost their jobs. The UK did full lock down, lost hundreds of billions in economic output, with related loss of tax revenues, put a million people out of work and wasted tens of billions in Furlough Scheme payments and other welfare payments. Conversely, if the UK had done a much softer Swedish style lock down, very few people would have lost their livelihood, so there would be little need for retraining programmes, and we could have afforded a more generous welfare system (like a UBI).
It's also a diagonal comparison. It's the Guardian's job to slag off anything vaguely right-wing, fair enough, but what the nominally Conservative government is doing is pretty much the opposite of what the right-wing press are calling for. And the article doesn't bother addressing the actual topic in hand, whether Sweden was right to do a very soft lock down.
It's not a left-vs-right thing either, I commend Prof. Sunetra Gupta's article in The Evening Standard. She always looked at this from a scientific stand-point and said that lock downs were pointless back in April or May:
Professor Sunetra Gupta, who has been a leading critic of the cost of lockdown, says she welcomes the return of schools as children “if anything... would benefit from being exposed to this and other seasonal coronaviruses”.
Gupta, who is a professor of theoretical epidemiology at Oxford, told The Londoner that alongside huge social and educational benefits, the “evidence is mounting that early exposure to these various coronaviruses is what enables people to survive them”.
She rejected being bracketed with libertarian lockdown sceptics, saying her opposition came from the left. “I personally think that only thinking along the lines of eliminating coronavirus, without giving heed to the consequences on the disadvantaged young and globally, is a dereliction of our duties as global citizens”.
Finally, there's this:
By not locking down in the spring, Sweden had a more protracted outbreak with far more deaths per capita than its neighbours. Admittedly, its death rate was not as bad as Britain’s. But then no European country had a death rate as bad as Britain’s because no other European country put the village idiot in charge.
Yes, we have the village idiots in charge, but the UK does not have the worst death rate. We are third-worst behind Belgium and Spain and only slightly worse than Italy or Sweden (ignoring micro-states).

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