The Swedish Experiment
The COVID-19 Response and its Controversies

THREE: Comparing Nations in a World Crisis


This worldwide crisis initiated frantic comparison (and competition) between nations to search for a response to the coronavirus. Sweden has been more than ever in the spotlight, under media and popular scrutiny. The daily briefings of Anders Tegnell and his sidekicks were followed by journalists and experts around the world. Initially there were more favourable opinions about a strategy that avoided lockdown and mitigated the effects on the economy, but it became increasingly controversial as the mortality rate rose. This chapter reflects on the comparison of policies, statistics, infection rates, death counts and the moral and normative dimensions that surrounded the justification of each nation’s ‘strategy’, along with forms of ‘health care nationalism’ that emerged in many countries, and markedly in Sweden. Indeed, the high and stable legitimacy of the Public Health Agency, []FHM, and its main experts has been striking and in sharp contrast with the situation in other European countries w[h]ere experts and politicians alike have faced sharp criticism. I show that this is coherent with traditional forms of trust in science, expertise and public institutions in this society but that it also hides a tendency to avoid divisions and conflicts

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