The spread of COVID-19
has created a serious public health challenge for governments throughout the
world, but several countries have responded differently.
The U.S. and many
European nations, for instance, have introduced widespread social distancing
and “stay at home” orders.
South Korea, the country that has shown the most success at reversing the course of the pandemic, has relied on aggressive public health interventions, such as temporary isolation and contact tracing, with only limited resort to social distancing.
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But Sweden has largely eschewed social
distancing, choosing instead to permit more normal levels of economic and
Other experts have argued that the disease spreads in exactly the same manner regardless of the mitigation approach, and some favor a completely different “controlled avalanche” approach that encourages young people to quickly develop immunity through voluntary exposure to the illness.
It will certainly take some time for the international data to definitively say which approach is best, but it seems that very few people want to have a healthy debate over the costs and benefits of those approaches.
In the U.S.,
criticism of social distancing and shutdowns is often misconstrued as advocating
for tens or even hundreds of thousands of deaths.
Aside from the
fact that these death tolls are based on uncertain statistical modeling, the choice is not between maintaining
current policies and doing nothing. The choice is between maintaining current
policies and doing something that may be more effective.
It’s vital that
the public scrutinize current public health policies and examine the evidence
as it becomes available. Only a robust debate can produce the best public
In an interview
posted April 17, one of the world’s leading epidemiologists, Johan Giesecke,
gave a very blunt assessment of why he thinks Sweden’s approach is the right way
to attack the COVID-19 problem.
The interview was with UnHerd.com, a U.K.-based outlet dedicated to providing “a platform for otherwise unheard ideas, people, and places.” Listen to Giesecke’s “unheard ideas” for yourself here: “Swedish expert: why lockdowns are the wrong policy.”