Two new studies suggest the country is emerging less harmed than other nations
As the UK debates whether the impacts of lockdown are responsible for more deaths than Covid itself, the wider secondary effects of Covid shutdowns are becoming apparent across the world. One country that is bucking the trend is Sweden, which seems to be reaping the benefits of its non coercive approach.
Two new studies show that, in different ways, Sweden seems to have escaped the most harmful secondary impacts that other countries showed.
First, a study from the International Journal of Educational Research concludes that Sweden’s decision to keep primary schools open during the pandemic prevented students suffering learning loss.
This evidence sets Sweden apart from comparable nations, including close Scandinavian neighbours. UNESCO figures estimate that 90% of the world’s students were affected by school closures. The negative consequences of this were particularly acute for the youngest and most disadvantaged students across the world.
For example, modelling in the United States found school closures significantly hampered improvements in the reading ability of kindergarten and first grade children. One model showed that by the autumn 2020 students reading ability improved by 31% less than usual.
Unlike comparable nations, the reading comprehension skills of Swedish primary school children did not suffer as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. Also, researchers did not find students from lower socio-economic backgrounds to be particularly disadvantaged. And the proportion of academically weak students did not increase over the same period.
But it is not just in the realm of education that Sweden’s bold covid strategy is standing the test of time.
The latest Pew Research Centre Global Attitudes Study has found that Sweden is one of the few countries whose society has become more united since the advent of the pandemic. Globally, only Singapore and Malaysia share this optimistic outlook.
By contrast, 81% of people in the United States believe that the pandemic sowed and entrenched societal division. Following closely behind is The Netherlands at 80%, Germany at 78% and Canada at 74%.
Furthermore, Swedish people join only Hungary, Singapore and Israel in feeling that their government’s handling of the pandemic highlighted their country’s political strengths. Most nations felt the opposite: that their government’s covid management revealed their political inadequacies.
Sweden has one of the most successful overall Covid outcomes in Europe, coming in 20th out of 28 European countries in terms of deaths from Covid per capita.