The Swedish Experiment
The COVID-19 Response and its Controversies

FOUR: Riding the Waves: Reckoning and Strategic Adjustments


The slower resurgence of contaminations in the autumn of 2020 seemed to give credit to the Swedish approach and showed a temporary return to grace in international media. While the experts still enjoyed a high level of trust, some cracks started to appear with inquiries into the failure to protect vulnerable elderly populations. The idea that democracy and political responsibility had been undermined by excessive trust in expertise and bureaucracy became more widely discussed. Some unusual criticism was even voiced in Norway and Denmark and, with the return of the virus, there were indications of a strategy shift with stricter measures and new pandemic legislation by the end of 2020. Nevertheless, it all took place in the same pragmatic and calm fashion that had characterized the management of the epidemic so far. Although still criticized for its higher mortality compared to its neighbours, Sweden carried on with a vaccine roll out in 2021, escaping most controversies in this respect until the implementation of a vaccine pass. The crisis is not over and further consequences are to be expected from the inquiries into the national strategy and its potential failures.

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