by Johan Anderberg
Friday, 11
November 2022
Debate
17:10

Sweden is Ron DeSantis’s trump card

The Florida Governor's Covid policy has been vindicated
by Johan Anderberg
Out with the old? Credit: Getty.

On the 16th March 2020, Donald Trump entered the White House’s cramped press room. He stood at the podium and looked out over the assembled journalists who were sitting apart in the room, each divided by a couple of chairs.

“I’m glad to see that you’re practising social distancing, that looks very nice,” the President said. With him on the podium stood Anthony Fauci, Deborah Birx and others who had advised Trump on the measures he was about to announce: “very talented people,” he called them. “We’ve made the decision to further toughen the guidelines and blunt the infection now,” Trump said.


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From that moment, the U.S. government recommended school closures. Citizens were also advised to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people and to wean themselves off pre-pandemic social habits. The strategy was summarised on a sign positioned behind the President: “15 days to slow the spread”.

We now know that those 15 days turned into months, then well over a year. The fear of reopening society deprived children and young adults of in-person education all around the world, perhaps hitting the U.S. most: at its peak, the closures affected at least 55.1 million students in 124,000 public schools across the country.

We also know that the actions taken by the Trump White House were heavily influenced by the infamous report from Imperial College London.

A month and a half after his press conference, Trump doubled down on his lockdown position. In a tweet on April 30, he wrote: “Sweden is paying heavily for its decision not to lock down… The United States made the correct decision!” 

In Florida, however, Governor Ron DeSantis took a deeper interest in the Swedish policy of keeping schools open and resisting sweeping lockdowns. Later in the summer, he even hosted a three-hour roundtable with two Stanford scientists, Jay Bhattacharya and Michael Levitt, as well as Swedish epidemiologist Martin Kulldorff. According to official transcripts, the word ‘Sweden’ came up 21 times. 

And so Sweden and Florida effectively became control groups in the massive experiment that the world had undertaken. The openness of both raised ire in U.S. and international media. Countless stories were written about the perceived irresponsibility of keeping beaches, sports and schools open.

Trump may have later reversed his positions on the Covid measures he advocated during those months, but the damage had already been done. Fauci had been elevated to near-divine status, the media became obsessed with case counts, and it proved almost impossible to reopen schools.

The race for the Republican nomination increasingly looks like it will be a duel between Trump and DeSantis, and their different positions on Covid lockdowns will likely be scrutinised by Republican primaries voters. As we now know, lockdowns had very little effect on the spread of the virus. Sweden’s excess death numbers during the pandemic were among the lowest in Europe, and lower than 43 U.S. states. 

Instead, the lockdowns created a massive education gap among children, damaged their mental health, and, through resulting stimulus packages, stoked the inflation we’re now living through. It is striking that the two main contenders for their party’s nomination took such different approaches during such a crucial period. It will surely be difficult for Trump to run away from his tainted record.

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Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
26 days ago

As we now know, lockdowns had very little effect on the spread of the virus.

Maybe it’s the crowd I mix with, but most of them are still arguing that lockdowns saved countless thousands of lives.
They will not countenance any suggestion that there was a choice, with benefits and costs to be weighed, and most of our governments made the wrong one, and will never admit it.

kekrak
kekrak
25 days ago

What about Canada? We had harsh lockdowns, but only a fraction of the U.S covid deaths. Lockdowns also saved the overworked healthcare system from collapse. There is still debate needed as to what degree of lockdown was needed. Lockdowns varied across Canadian provinces. Some unnecessarily harsher than others. Sometimes hard choices must be made. Hindsight makes it all look easy.

Last edited 25 days ago by kekrak
Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
26 days ago

Clearly the lockdowns-save-lives narrative has totally collapsed. I feel for the people on the left, the right and the centre who trumpeted it so proudly, so loudly, and so utterly destructively. I also feel for those innocents still trapped in the narrative who are going to be jolted out of the somnolence sooner or later. It will weigh on the conscience of those good people across the political spectrum who made those panicky decisions until their dying day. I hope they can reconcile and forgive themselves for what they did.

One can only hope that that reckoning will allow them to come to analyse the effects of the pharmaceutical interventions in a more objective, cold light of day and with the benefit of an increasing amount of hindsight. The sad truth might be, though, that there is no long term profit to be made in permanent economic shutdown, but there is profit to made in perpetuating pharmaceutical interventions; and this will make any objective reckoning a lot harder. If DeSantis can rise to that challenge without fear or favour to either side of what is a horribly toxic debate and in a way that can help bring people back together, then – literally, by goodness – would that not make him the most deserving recipient of the keys to the White House that there has been for a very long time?

David Harris
David Harris
24 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

“I feel for the people on the left, the right and the centre who trumpeted [lockdowns] so proudly”
I don’t. And I’ve not seen ANY mea culpa from them yet.

Last edited 24 days ago by David Harris
Adam Bacon
Adam Bacon
26 days ago

One can but hope that the midterms spell the end for Trumpism.
It seems to me that Ron DeSantis represents the best chance we have of maintaining a relatively free and hopefully democratic Western civilization (small d, capital W), in the face of the corporate, Democrat, Big Pharma coup.

Funny how often the autocrats label themselves as democrats eg East Germany, North Korea.

Last edited 26 days ago by Adam Bacon
Arkadian X
Arkadian X
26 days ago

“We now know that those 15 days turned into months, then well over a year”
Indeed… What was it, three weeks to flatten the curve?
Anyway, I recently happened to see a video from a few days ago of a rehearsal in a Californian opera House. Singers and musicians were masked, over 2.5 years after that fateful press conference!!
(I understand that the mask mandate has now been removed).

Russell David
Russell David
26 days ago

Do run Ron, do run Ron.
He’s the man who can not only save the US, but possibly the world from the woke globalist utopians who despise personal freedom and want us all in boxes like chicken eggs.

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
26 days ago

That tweat of April 30th could cost Trump the Presidency. Pitiful for a supposed disrupter to join the pile on against Sweden standing alone against the global forces quite frankly of evil. Lockdowners were determined to shut down society, and to deprive children of their education, the lonely of company, the poor of their livelihoods, the abused and vulnerable of refuge, small businesses of their future, and the powerless of personal autonomy and dignity. What a fraud Trump showed himself to be when tested.

Anne Torr
Anne Torr
25 days ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

I think the Teaching Unions had a big say in all this – seeing an opportunity to increase their political presence and flex their muscles. For them, it was never about the children.

M. Gatt
M. Gatt
25 days ago

Much of Africa continued on during the covid period with few restrictions.

Glyn R
Glyn R
26 days ago

From the so-called enquiry into how Covid was responded to in this country it is clear that those responsible for the imposition of frankly evil lockdowns will never take responsibility for the devastating consequences they unleashed. We can see it in the way they – see the awful Hunt – now blame Putin for the resulting recessions and bankruptcies etc.
The truth is being systematically suppressed.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
24 days ago

Although Sweden took a different approach from the rest of Europe it was not as different as people who like to quote the Swedish example suppose. There were restrictions on gatherings, schools were closed – for 16-18 year olds – as were universities. That’s a lockdown, albeit less severe than most.
The Swedish Government did not have the legal powers to impose severe restrictions, so majored on exhortations. Municipalities, however, did have those powers and many used them. Naturally, Stockholm based foreign correspondents of the world’s press mostly missed this.
Interestingly, by the end of 2020, the Swedish Government, many opposition politicians, much public opinion had concluded their approach was a failure, especially compared with the better fatality numbers of Norway and Denmark. Even the King joined in:
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/davidnikel/2020/12/17/swedens-king-on-coronavirus-we-have-failed/amp/
So let’s all acknowledge that the debate is rather more nuanced than lockdown good/bad* (delete as appropriate).