Many countries have criticized the Swedish government’s lax lockdown, but the deadly mistakes of defunding elder care and decentralizing public health oversight were made before anyone had heard of COVID-19.
- 21.6 Public Health
- 62.2 Financial
- 88 Fact-Based
Despite being known for a relatively strong public healthcare system, Sweden has been hit hard with cases; the country’s lack of stay-at-home orders and school closures, limited testing, and few gathering restrictions overshadowed its financial support, reliance on facts, and accountability with an open press.
Strong in most subcategories, a low number of hospital beds brought Sweden’s score down slightly in pre-pandemic conditions.
- Debt/GDP ratio 38.5%
- GDP/capita $55,989
- Gini coefficient (out of 100) 28.8
- Infant mortality rate (out of 1,000 live births) 2
- Healthcare access score (out of 100) 90.5
- Hospital beds/1,000 People 18.2
Government ResponseSelect a data point for more information
(Data points represent policy level as of Mar 15.)
Public Health Directives
Sweden has a very poor public health policy score, due to having a weak stay-at-home policy, limited school closure, limited testing, and devoting few resources to emergency healthcare funds.
- Stay at home order 1
- Public gathering restrictions 4
- School closings 2
- Public event cancellations 2
- Testing policy 2
- Emergency healthcare investments/capita $64.26
- Travel restrictions 3
- Tests/1,000 people NO DATA
- Contact tracing 1
Sweden's financial response score rose since January due to a large improvement in income support.
- Financial stimulus as share of GDP 12.1%
- Income support 2
- Debt forebearance 0
Sweden’s government is very strong in this category as it has engaged in very little misinformation, and has not limited press freedom in response to COVID-19. Its chief epidemiologist did suggest facemask usage wouldn’t slow the spread of the virus, however.
- Reliance on science/fact based information 1
- Press freedom 0
COVID-19 Status as of Mar 15
Sweden improved substantially in this category, driven by a large decline in its case rate, bringing its score above the median.
- Total deaths 3,938
- Death rate per 100K 389.9
- Total cases 712,527
- Cases per 100K 20
- Percent of positive tests 9.9
- Change in positivity rates -2.2
|Ban sale of alchol in bars/restaurants after 10 pm, shut down after 10:30 pm
- Sweden at risk of first-ever lockdown: Almost a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Sweden's prime minister has warned that the country may need to go into lockdown, as cases have risen since mid-January. So far, the country has closed its borders, released mask guidance, and banned evening sales of alcohol. Read More
- Municipalities ban masks: Sweden is experiencing a spate of mask bans, as multiple municipalities have announced prohibitions on masks in schools, libraries, and other public buildings. The Swedish government has been a key source of mask skepticism throughout the pandemic, long after other countries had embraced widespread mask use. Read More
- Anti-lockdown protesters arrested: Restrictions introduced at the start of 2021 have led to Sweden's first-ever mass anti-lockdown protest. Around 600 people gathered in Stockholm in early March, protesting the restrictions, vaccines, and face masks. Police arrested 50 demonstrators. Read More
- Swedish officials caught breaking rules: Multiple Swedish leaders, including Prime Minister Stefan Lofven and Justice Minister Morgan Johansson, have been caught violating the country's new social distancing guidelines. The violations follow weeks of government messaging encouraging the public to stay home and as distant as possible. Read More
- King Carl XVI Gustaf declares that the Swedish strategy has failed: As Sweden's death and case rates have risen dramatically in comparison to those of its Scandinavian neighbors, the king and other senior leaders have called the country's prevention strategy a failure that has caused tremendous suffering. Nationwide restrictions on in-person learning and public gatherings were implemented in early December. Read More
- Commission finds that government failed to protect elderly: An official report released mid-December found the Swedish government responsible for the pandemic's effects on the country, and specifically the high death toll among the elderly. Nearly half of COVID-19 deaths have been in care homes. Read More
- Norway and Finland stand by to provide emergency aid: Health officials in neighboring Norway and Finland offered medical assistance to Sweden, should the government request it, as intensive care beds run low, and infections rise. Read More
Compared with Other Nordic States
Per 1M 791
Norway scores just below the median, pulled down by its weak public health and financial response scores, despite a strong reliance on facts and a free press.
Per 1M 3
Iceland has a very strong score, owing heavily to its reliance on facts as well as generous debt and income support; its large improvement since January was keyed by significant improvements in public health policy and financial support.
Per 1M 687
Clear, fact-based communications, a generous stimulus package, and substantial improvements in public health policy in the past few months have been instrumental factors in Finland's strong and much-improved COVID-19 response.
Further Reading From Foreign Policy
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Statistics and government response factors available on each country profile include:
- Debt to GDP ratio
- Infant mortality rates
- Hospital beds per 1,000 people
- Gini coefficients measuring inequality
- Health access and quality
COVID-19 Public Health Directives:
- Stay-at home orders
- School-closing policy
- Public-gathering restrictions
- Cancellation of public events
- Testing policy and rates per 1,000 people
- Emergency healthcare spending per capita
- Travel restrictions
- Contact tracing
COVID-19 Financial Response:
- Stimulus package as a share of GDP
- Income support
- Instances of misinformation by leadership
- Limitations on press freedom, censorship
Current/Historic In-Country COVID-19 Status:
- Death rates per 1 million
- Case rates per 1 million