Important thing to note in this story: The word “controlled”:
“Coronavirus should be let spread amongst people below 60 in a controlled way, the Dáil’s Covid-19 committee will be told on Wednesday.
Sweden’s former chief epidemiologist Dr Johan Giesecke will recommend that the virus be let spread through the population alongside a programme that concentrates on the “old and frail” and that frequently tests staff and residents in care homes.
Mr Giesecke will also warn the Government not to build its Covid-19 strategy around the imminent advent of a vaccine, stating: “We might have to wait for it and it may not be very effective in those who need it most.”
In other words, even if the Dáil and Government took him at his word, and announced that they were going to allow the spread of the virus in a controlled way, there would still, in all likelihood, be restrictions. Because otherwise you’d risk an uncontrolled spread.
There are a couple of things to say about this, though.
First, whether we like it or not, or whether it’s publicly acknowledged or not, isn’t this exactly what the Government is doing at the moment anyway? We’re keeping schools, and to a lesser extent, Colleges, open. No matter how bad the virus gets, according to the Government’s published plan, that won’t change.
If the Government’s objective was to eliminate the virus, and stop it from circulating completely, schools and colleges would be closed. They’re obviously content with some level of circulation amongst the young. They want to slow it down, maybe, but they’re not exactly taking all available measures to stop the spread, are they?
He’s quite right about the vaccine point, though: The target for any covid-19 vaccine is to be 50% effective: In other words, there’ll be a 50/50 chance that you’d be immune after taking it. Obviously we could get lucky and discover one that’s much more effective than that, but all of the vaccines currently in trials are targeting 50% effectiveness. And there’s no guarantee, of course, that that 50% effectiveness will be uniform: In other words, what if the vaccine works better in the young than in the old?
Anyway, what we seem to be doing is a sort of low-key herd immunity strategy, in which the schools are central to the plan. That’s kind of what “controlled spread” might look like, whether we like it or not.
Sweden, as my colleagues on Gript never tire of pointing out, has managed Coronavirus in an entirely different way to most western countries: No lockdowns, few restrictions, and a reliance on reaching herd immunity. From an economic and personal liberty point of view, it has been a relative success. But it also came with a cost, which is too often ignored:
The death rate is high, however, especially when compared with other Scandinavian nations. Sweden has had 5,685 corona-related deaths, the fifth-highest per capita death rate in Europe, five times higher than neighbouring Denmark and about ten times more than Norway and Finland.
When your death rate is five to ten times higher than your neighbours, who adopted a different approach, what’s the excuse? Those who profess to love the Swedish strategy have to address that point, but they very rarely do, unfortunately.
The best defence of it, probably, is that to some extent, the virus, much like Thanos the Destroyer, is inevitable. In other words, we’re all going to be Sweden sooner or later, because waiting for a vaccine is much like hoping to win the lotto, and lockdowns are unsustainable in the long term. At some stage, we’ll all end up admitting defeat and adopting Sweden’s strategy, except it will have cost us many times what it cost them.
The other point here is this: Sweden’s strategy was what we were all supposed to do, right at the beginning, remember? “Flatten the curve”, and all that.
When you flatten a curve, the curve doesn’t actually get smaller. Think of it like squashing a circle – the top and bottom get narrower, but the sides get wider. The actual area of the circle stays the same. The whole point of flattening the curve was to ultimately have the same number of cases as if we did nothing, but to spread them out over a longer period of time.
The problem with that, of course, is that it’s not popular. People don’t want to get the virus, and they want the Government to keep them safe from it.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a poll from the UK, where Boris Johnson announced six more months of lockdown yesterday, with the army on the streets to enforce it.
How did the British public react, according to the polls? 78% of them support it, and 8% are strongly opposed:
It won’t be any different here. People can dream about the Swedish model all they wish – but until circumstances force it on the Government, they’ll listen politely and reject it.