Sweden’s coronavirus death rate is nearly 6 times that of neighbouring Norway and Finland. Here’s a look at how the countries have approached the coronavirus pandemic differently.

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A pathway in Oslo, Norway, occupied by a lone biker on April 10, compared with people chatting and drinking outside a bar in Stockholm on April 8. Left: NTB Scanpix/Lise Aserud/Reuters; Right: Andres Kudacki/AP Photo
  • In recent weeks, the number of coronavirus-related deaths in Sweden has continued to climb, making its per capita death rate six times that of some of its neighbours’.
  • Though Sweden borders and shares strong cultural ties with Norway and Finland, it has taken a much more relaxed approach to curb the coronavirus’ spread.
  • Norway and Finland enacted countrywide lockdowns in mid-March, limiting public gatherings to five and 10 people. Neighbouring Swedes, meanwhile, have been free to congregate at bars and parks in groups of 50 or fewer.
  • Thanks to a decline in new infections, Norway began easing its coronavirus restrictions last week.
  • While the uptick in Sweden’s coronavirus-related deaths has prompted criticism, the country’s chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, maintains that his country’s approach will be “much more sustainable” than others in the long run.
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Sweden has taken a far more relaxed approach to curb the spread of the coronavirus than neighbouring Norway and Finland, and it has seen significantly more fatalities.

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People outside a bar in Stockholm on April 8.
source
Andres Kudacki/AP Photo

Source: Business Insider, Our World in Data


Whereas Norway and Finland instituted lockdowns in mid-March and have seen their number of coronavirus deaths per capita plateau, Sweden has seen its death rate climb.

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Customs and police officers at the Norway-Sweden border on March 16 after Norway introduced strict border controls.

Source: Business Insider, Our World in Data


As of April 28, 2,274 people had died from the coronavirus in Sweden, making its per capita death rate nearly six times that of Norway and Finland.

Source: Our World in Data, Our World in Data


While Sweden has passed a few restrictive measures, its residents have for the most part been free to live their lives.

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People in Stockholm on April 11.

Sweden has banned gatherings of 50 or more people, closed high schools and universities, and restricted nursing-home visits.

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A general view of Sophiahemmet private hospital on April 22 in Stockholm.
source
Anders Wilkund/TT News Agency/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider, Reuters, Government Offices of Sweden


Restaurants, bars, and cafés remain open, however, as long as they observe social distancing and serve only seated customers.

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Patrons at a restaurant in Stockholm on April 15.

Source: Business Insider


Kindergarten and primary schools are still holding in-person classes …

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Young people socialising in Stockholm on April 4.

Source: Reuters, Business Insider


… and many shops have stayed open for business.

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People walking past open shops in Stockholm on April 4.

Source: Business Insider


Group fitness classes have still been taking place …

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Members of a fitness club practicing Aikido in Stockholm on April 20.

Source: Business Insider


… and hair salons have continued to offer their services.

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A hair stylist working inside her shop in Stockholm on April 8.

Source: Business Insider


Sweden’s approach is a product of its high-trust culture, according to the country’s chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell. “We are more into nudging: continuously reminding people to use measures,” he told Nature.

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Women at a restaurant in Stockholm on April 4.

Source: Nature,Reuters


Norway, by contrast, went into lockdown on March 13 beginning with school closings. The following day, it advised against public gatherings of five or more people.

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Children’s paintings and banners with “Everything will be fine” messages taped to windows and fences in Norway on April 10.

Source: Government of Norway, The Local, Norwegian Institute of Public Health


The country also asked residents to stay home, shut down businesses that required close physical contact, and closed community spaces such as fitness centres, bars, and restaurants.

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Anna Nohr invited neighbours to take part in a backyard quiz in Oslo, Norway, while they self-isolated at home on March 23.

Source: The Local, Government of Norway, Government of Norway


Finland enacted similar lockdown measures beginning March 17, though it limited public gatherings to 10 people and kept day care and pre-primary schools open.

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Senate Square in Helsinki on March 31.

Source: Government of Finland


When announcing the first phase of restrictions in March, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said they were “the most far-reaching measures Norway’s population has ever experienced in peacetime.”

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A view of the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel in Oslo on March 25.
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NTB scanpix/Lise Aserud/Reuters

Source: The Local


The country even banned travel to second homes, prohibiting urban residents from self-isolating in their country cabins and instituting a fine of 15,000 krones, or $US1,364, for anyone caught doing so.

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Country houses in Vikafjellet, Norway, on April 10.

Source: Reuters, Government of Norway


Sweden’s increasing number of coronavirus deaths has drawn criticism: On April 14, 22 academics wrote a letter to a Stockholm newspaper calling on officials to change course “with swift and radical measures.”

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People at an outdoor restaurant in Stockholm on April 20.

Source: Bloomberg, Dagens Nyheter


The World Health Organisation has also urged Sweden to reconsider its tactics.

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A senior couple eating dinner outside on April 18 in Ostersund, Sweden.

Source: CNN


Tegnell maintains that his country’s approach will be “much more sustainable” than others in the long run by avoiding a second wave of infections that could follow the easing of lockdown measures.

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People outside in Hornstull, a trendy neighbourhood in Stockholm, on April 21.


Source: Associated Press, Business Insider


Norway is beginning that process this week, and Finland is eyeing reopening in May.

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A sign reading “Enjoy the woods, find new paths, keep distance, keep groups small” in Oslo on April 10.
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NTB Scanpix/Lise Aserud via Reuters

Source: Associated Press, Government of Norway, Reuters


Norwegian children in kindergarten and primary school resumed in-person classes on April 20 …

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Children during the reopening day of Espira Grefsen Station Kindergarten in Oslo on April 20.

Source: Government of Norway


… and Norwegians can travel to their cabins again. Beginning this week, salons and other businesses that provide “one-to-one contact” can open as long as they follow sanitation guidelines.

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Norwegians were able to return to their cabins near Lake Sjusjoen after the country lifted restrictions on April 20.

Source: Government of Norway


It remains to be seen whether Norway will be able to contain the spread of the virus as it reopens. “We must do this little by little, and we must be very cautious,” Solberg said during an April 15 conference.

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The Norwegian artist Stian Thorbjornsen performing in front of a family during a drive-in concert in Lillestrom, Norway, on April 9.

Source: Government of Norway