‘Maybe the Swedes did get it right’ over Covid-19

“The evidence is clear. Lockdowns are not a panacea,” say two Auckland economic and health professionals.

Professor Ananish Chaudhuri and Dr Simon Thornley work for the University of Auckland, Chaudhuri in the Department of Economics and Thornley in the School of Population Health.

There is, they say, weak if any correlation between lockdowns and the spread of Covid-19.

“At best, they merely postpone the spread of the infection,” they say in a statement.

“When the Swedish authorities said this, the rest of the world sneered at them. Now, there is increasing recognition that maybe the Swedes did get it right, say Chaudhuri and Thornley.

Now, there is increasing recognition that maybe the Swedes did get it right.

“Certainly not all of it; they did experience a failure to protect the frail and elderly. But, on balance, it appears they will emerge from the pandemic stronger than their neighbours and that in the current globalized world, lockdowns are not and cannot be a sustainable solution.”

Chaudhuri and Thornley cite a Productivity Commission report that they say provides support for the Swedish view by asking about the relative costs and benefits of prolonging New Zealand’s lockdown.

“The conclusion: the costs conservatively outweighed the benefits of an extended lockdown by 95:1,” they say.

“And the Swedish approach has been reiterated by Camilla Stoltenberg, Director General of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health; that Norway could have handled the disease without locking down.

“Why does our government have such little faith in its citizens? Why does it claim for its police the right to enter people’s home without warrants to enforce quarantine?

“And if a government does not trust its citizens, then why and how long should the citizens continue to trust the government?

“Even with preponderance of evidence that lockdowns are mostly useless, our government has responded to an outbreak with another lockdown.

…lockdowns are not and cannot be a sustainable solution.

“The initial rationale for a lockdown was protecting our hospitals, but now with cases linked to only one household, the threshold for pulling the lockdown trigger has dropped considerably.

“Is this really sustainable: to lurch from one from lockdown to another with breaks in between?”

Chaudhuri and Thornley say that Covid-19 is “hardly the threat it has been made out to be” by the government and health authorities.

“Both the case fatality ratio and the infection fatality ratio is relatively low and much lower than Ebola or other corona viruses such as Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS),” they say.

“It is now clear that lockdowns are a blunt instrument that is disproportionate to the threat posed by this virus.”

However, Chaudhuri and Thornley concede that resuming ‘normal life’ will lead to more cases and there will be more deaths due to Covid-19.

“Just as there will be more deaths from auto accidents, flu, pneumonia, respiratory illnesses, loneliness and self-harm. We also now appreciate that the age distribution of deaths from Covid-19 is indistinguishable from background mortality,” they say.


Steve Hart is a writer and podcaster.