People queue outside a Stockholm liquor store during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: AFP/JONATHAN NACKSTRAND
People queue outside a Stockholm liquor store during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: AFP/JONATHAN NACKSTRAND

Stockholm — Sweden’s light-touch approach to containing Covid-19 may be working in Scandinavia’s biggest economy, but it would be wrong to regard it as a model for others to emulate, according to Goldman Sachs.

Swedish schools, gyms, bars and shops have remained mostly open during the pandemic. On Tuesday, a report showed the Swedish GDP may be contracting a lot less than economies elsewhere.

Despite the absence of a strict lockdown, Sweden’s fatality rate as a share of the population is lower than in most of the major European economies. Meanwhile, Sweden’s top epidemiologist says there are signs the coronavirus infection rate has stabilised.

But Goldman says none of that is evidence that other countries adopting Sweden’s hands-off response to Covid-19 would achieve similar results. That’s because a number of uniquely Swedish demographic factors have shielded it from the worst, a team of Goldman economists led by Sven Jari Stehn said in a note.

“The Swedish experience therefore cannot be extrapolated to support a swift reopening elsewhere,” Goldman said. “Its population density is about half that of Italy, and Sweden has a high proportion of single-occupancy households, and a relatively low proportion of multi-generational households.”

Sweden’s death rate, though not as bad as in places such as the UK and Spain, is much worse than in neighbouring Denmark, Norway and Finland. But importantly, the development has at no point overwhelmed Sweden’s healthcare system.

In a recent interview with Danish state broadcaster DR, Sweden’s chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell explained his strategy, arguing that severe restrictions make little sense for a virus that’s likely to be around for a long time.

“The long-term sustainability of strict rules isn’t that big. You can only impose such restrictions for a limited time,” he said. “So you need to find a different way, and our model may prove more sustainable.”

Bloomberg