When the history books are written about 2020 and the great coronavirus pandemic, Anders Tegnell, the humble Swedish state epidemiologist and architect of the global-consensus-defying ‘Sweden strategy’, will inevitably loom large throughout the text. But whether he is portrayed as a hero or villain may – like so many things in this highly polarized era – ultimately depend on who’s writing the piece.
As the FT explained in its latest in a series of interviews with Tegnell, the American press – thanks in large part to its newfound fanatical devotion to the cause of “science” – including the NYT, has been particularly hard on Tegnell. The Gray Lady has called Sweden a “pariah state” and “the world’s cautionary tale.”
European papers have been somewhat more forgiving. That’s perhaps because the lockdowns imposed across Europe were far more restrictive than what most, outside NYC, experienced in the US. And despite all that work, new daily cases are back to seeing record highs in France, and post-lockdown highs in Spain, while cases climb in Italy, the UK, Germany and across Central Europe into Ukraine.
But sure enough, there’s one European nation where cases haven’t been showing a “second wave”: Sweden.
Instead, cases have continued to fall well into September.
There’s no denying that Sweden suffered a large tally of preventable deaths in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities early on the in the pandemic. But as more time has passed, Sweden’s outsize death toll is looking more and more reasonable, particularly compared to the UK and Spain and France.
But even when compared to its well-managed Nordic neighbors, Sweden’s numbers are starting to turn.
Here’s another view of the respective COVID-19 case data.
The data could offer some insight into why one Swedish CEO told an FT reporter in hushed tones that he would love to tag along on a meeting to meet Tegnell, who had reportedly been planning to spend 2020 helping Somalia set up a public health agency and sending out surveys to Swedes before COVID hit.
For many Swedes, their state epidemiologist has embodied a rational approach as other countries have appeared to sacrifice science to emotion.