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.
- 9.3 Public Health
- 47.1 Financial
- 100 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 Oct 1.)
Public Health Directives
Sweden has a very poor public health policy score, due to having no stay-at-home policy, not shutting schools, not cancelling public events, limited testing, and devoting few resources to emergency healthcare funds.
- Stay at home order 1
- Public gathering restrictions 3
- School closings 0
- Public event cancellations 0
- Testing policy 0
- Emergency healthcare investments/capita $64.26
- Travel restrictions 3
- Tests/1,000 people NO DATA
- Contact tracing 1
Sweden has a median financial response to the pandemic, with generous income support and financial stimulus undercut by a very weak debt-forbearance policy.
- Financial stimulus as share of GDP 19%
- Income support 2
- Debt forebearance 1
Sweden’s government is very strong in this category as it has not engaged in misinformation or limited press freedom in response to COVID-19.
- Reliance on science/fact based information 0
- Press freedom 0
COVID-19 Status as of Oct 1
Sweden’s high death and case rates and weak public health score are offset by its strong financial response and fact-based communications, giving it a relatively strong score in this category.
- Total deaths 5,893
- Death rate per 100K 583.5
- Total cases 93,615
- Cases per 100K 9,270
- Percent of positive tests 2.2
- Change in positivity rates -0.4
- Sweden considers lockdown measures: Initially praised for its relaxed approach to lockdown measures, the Swedish government is now considering restrictions as cases rise. Read More
- Vaccine for children not recommended: The Swedish government announced that it will not recommend that COVID-19 vaccines be given to those under 18, stating that the virus has "limited" transfers between children. Read More
- Despite international debate, Swedes approve of COVID-19 response: Pew Research Center polling has found that nearly three quarters of Swedes think the country has handled the pandemic well, despite at least three in ten respondents saying their lives have changed a great deal as a result of the pandemic. Read More
- No lockdown, poor elderly care conditions, created issues: Sweden's decision not to implement lockdown restrictions has been controversial. Although cases and deaths remain relatively low, the country has reported three times as many deaths as its Nordic neighbours, largely in its elderly population. The elder care sector has been criticised for its reliance on part-time, unskilled staff who are working multiple jobs and using public transport, increasing their risk of exposure and that of care home residents. Read More
- Immigrants disproportionately affected by coronavirus: The country's Public Health Agency has reported that immigrants make up a disproportionate share of Sweden's confirmed cases. This is likely due to the country's long-standing isolation of foreign-born individuals, despite its reputation as a key refugee resettlement country. Read More
- High trust in government helped control spread: Sweden's "high-trust" culture has been credited for its success in keeping cases down despite the lack of a formal lockdown. Read More
Compared with Other Nordic States
Per 1M 274
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 10
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 344
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