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Sweden’s approach to COVID-19

by Tom Warneke
First published 21st April 2020
Europe | Understanding Your World | Fostering Growth & Opportunity

Sweden has taken a very different approach and bucked the global trend to lockdown. They’ve chosen not to lock down and basically take a very humanist approach, largely to just ask people to be responsible. A voluntary lockdown/isolation process.

Where did lockdowns come from?

Lockdowns haven’t been recommended from the World Health Organisation and it isn’t scientifically proven — so where do lockdowns come from?

Largely, the lockdown approach is taken from China and Italy. China acted fast to lockdown the Hubei province as a method of stopping regional and international spread. Appearing successful, this method did work in part.

A People First approach

Sweden decided early that restrictions should only be introduced based on scientific fact. As such, they’ve introduced two requirements: hand washing and social distancing. Sweden has chosen largely to put trust in their citizens that they’ll do the right thing.

Seemingly Sweden has taken the position there’s no evidence base for lockdowns to occur. While there is a slow in spread by using lockdowns and it does support the burden on healthcare. This strategy was largely put in place following the experiences in Italy where facilities were overwhelmed.

That being said, there’s a clear priority for protecting the vulnerable and elderly including care homes to try and shield these particular populations from the dangers of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Testing must be a priority

The World Health Organisation has said publicly that the key to fighting coronavirus is contact tracing and testing yet so many countries lag behind.

Having said that, it is possible to do this without a full lockdown. As the basis for outbreak control, this system should be rolled out as far as practically possible.

Switching from Lockdown to the Swedish Model

Simply put, if you remove lockdowns instantaneously, you’ll unleash a huge wave of cases. A lockdown must be withdrawn in stages.

Perhaps this is stages by industry or economy or perhaps the lockdown stoppage might be regionally based. It depends on the nation state and their individual requirements.


Fascinatingly the world hasn’t been too in favour of Sweden’s approach.

For the first weeks, the world called Sweden ‘crazy’ for chasing a herd immunity approach but now the world grows more inquisitive and intrigued by their buck trending approach.

Interestingly, in a crisis that very few people have had to deal with before, it’s important to look at all corners of the world and all the varying routes taken to find the best practice solutions for all.

Many of our clients globally are already engaging with us as they determine how to monitor the situation whilst continuing their operations and keep their teams and operations safe.

We’ve setup a hub on our website to help our clients track the situation as well as access the latest in analysis as well as advice from the World Health Organisation — find us at

We’re helping our clients through monitoring and analysis of the situation via inCountry as well as our local, regional & global analysts and experts as well as our crisis response and emergency management provisions — ensuring our clients are assisted in their time of need.

If you have concerns about your current operations and the risks to your team or your business or if you feel you need a more developed understanding in the current situation and what might help you be better prepared, our team is able to assist. We have an expansive team in most regions with access to the latest information and analysis as well as scenario planning and support. To find out how we can support you, our team can be reached at



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Tom Warneke

Risk. Security. Travel. Geopolitics. Foreign Affairs. International Aid. The Arts. What makes the world tick and what’s the story behind what’s going on.