Ms. Einhorn, you are a trained doctor, but most recently you have made a name for yourself as a documentary filmmaker and author in Sweden. You are among 22 scientists in the country who publicly criticized Sweden’s corona strategy in April. How do you rate the development?
Political correspondent for Northern Germany and Scandinavia based in Hamburg.
In the beginning, the responsible health authority did not clearly formulate what the Swedish strategy should be. One had to guess what was going on. I would say there were different phases: In the first, the health authorities seemed convinced that this virus would not be a problem for Sweden. She assumed that only people with symptoms spread it. So there was no preparation. The main recommendations were: wash your hands and stay at home if you feel sick. Then the infection numbers went through the roof, and the virus also penetrated old people’s and nursing homes. Like wildfire. Now we have ten times as many deaths in relation to the number of inhabitants as Norway and Finland.
Wasn’t there a lot of speculation about rapid herd immunity?
Yes, that was the second phase. While it was said that herd immunity was not the goal, it was also said that Sweden would deal much better with the virus in the long term because we would have higher immunity in society. Today we know that we are not even close to herd immunity.
But didn’t the number of infections drop in summer?
This has nothing to do with herd immunity. Sweden is very sparsely populated. In summer, people from the cities are drawn to nature. It’s a kind of natural social distancing.
But in Sweden there was also interference in everyday life. So it stayed at the 50-person limit for events.
Yes, but this limit should actually be lifted – only then the number of infections rose again. If you look at the numbers today, the trend here is again significantly more negative than in the other Scandinavian countries.
Is it the second wave?
Yes, the numbers are rising rapidly again. In terms of strategy, however, the differences to other countries have certainly become smaller in recent months, with two exceptions.
Until recently, it was said that you could go to work as long as you had no symptoms, even if someone in the same household tested positive. Now it is at least recommended that as an adult you should stay home for a week. But children should continue to go to school.
And the second exception are the face masks?
Exactly, and that’s crazy, it’s like a taboo. There is still no recommendation for this, you even go to the doctor without a mask, and the doctor doesn’t wear one either. The King and Queen have just visited the Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm. The Queen asked why face masks were not recommended. She received the reply that the health authorities did not believe that masks were adequate and that it was difficult to use them properly. The queen was not satisfied with the explanation, the king shook his head and said it seemed like no one could give a good explanation for it.
Do you still believe that Sweden is better prepared for the second wave?
It is better prepared because there is more testing and more contacts being followed up. But not enough. And now visitors are allowed to visit the old people’s and nursing homes again. Again, there is no recommendation that they should wear masks.
Is there something about the Swedish strategy that is typically Swedish?
I do not think so. I have always viewed Sweden as a very sensible society that acts in the best interests of its fellow citizens. This way is rather the opposite.