I COULDN’T believe what a columnist here wrote that Sweden’s performance in addressing the pandemic – no lockdowns, no health and social protocols – was “salutary.” He even, comically I think, pats himself at the back that he is the “heretic” that has been proven right in espousing the Swedish model in dealing with the pandemic.
Is he nuts? Sweden has been one of the worst-hit countries in the world. Its herd-immunity belief, that the virus will go away after much of the population are infected and would have developed natural immunity has been totally proven wrong. In a rare public appearance. the Swedish King Carl 16th Gustaf said several months ago: “I think we have failed. We have a large number who have died, and that is terrible.”
A huge 11 percent, 1.1 million, of Sweden’s population were Covid-19 infected, among the highest rates in the world. In our case only 1.7 percent got sick of the virus. Some 14,634 of Swedes died from Covid, much more than the 8,793 killed in Metro Manila whose 13.5 million population is bigger than Sweden’s 10.1 million. Sweden is the stark outlier among four Scandinavian countries (see accompanying table), with the other three having cases at most of 340,567 (for Denmark).
If those Swedish rates of cases and deaths per population, the result of their it-will-just-go-away-stance, were converted to our population of 111.2 million, there would have been 12.2 million Filipinos infected, more than seven times the actual figure now of 1.9 million infected.
How many would have died from Covid? A horrific 155,748, five times the actual figure of 32,392.
The deaths would actually be much higher as the arithmetic doesn’t capture the dynamics of the pandemic. As cases increase, hospitals and their staff are overwhelmed, patients aren’t attended to properly, medications and oxygen get scarce – resulting in more deaths.
This is also the argument to address cynics who claim that the death rate per total world population is just about 1 percent and therefore we should worry more about heart disease which kills 9 million and worry about Covid only as much as we worry about the flu.
The flaw in this argument is that it doesn’t account for what could happen, as a result of Covid-19 infectiousness. In many countries (even the US), its spread would exponentially raise the number of deaths, simply because more people are infected, as hospital systems are overwhelmed by the huge number of cases. (Also, heart disease, on the other hand, is not communicable.)
That opinion writer who is in awe of the Swedish model – most probably since he can no longer stand being cooped up at home – cut and pasted in its entirety another opinion columnist, whose piece, hilariously really, was another cut-and-paste job. (Check it out: https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/sweden-lockdowns-and-new-zealands-maginot-medicine/) That is, 80 percent of his Manila Times column was cut and pasted from another opinion piece published in the American National Review. In turn some 50 percent of that opinion piece was cut and pasted from other pieces. I really don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the sad state of Philippine journalism.
Cut and paste
The cut-and-paste piece is another testament to the adage, “people see what they want to see.” That National Review opinion piece wasn’t really in total praise of Sweden’s hands-off approach to the pandemic, and indeed it even started off with what would be a disclaimer: “‘That is not to say the virus has not taken its toll – nearly 15,000 people have died in total, around 1,450 per million.”
The article’s point is that Sweden chose economic growth rather than lowering the number of cases and deaths. What the cut-and-paste writer seems to be ignorant about is the huge difference between Sweden’s 10.7 million population (smaller than metropolitan Manila’s 13 million) and our 111.3 million.
The virus’ “killing-rate” of just 0.014 percent (for Sweden) resulted in “acceptable” deaths of 14,634. With that rate, which would happen if we adopted the Swedish model, there would be 158,000 deaths here, nearly double the 80,000 Filipinos killed in the 1918-1919 flu epidemic.
I think it is so irresponsible for an opinion writer to present only one opinion piece (not even written by him) to argue that the Philippines’ approach to the pandemic – which has mainly different degrees of quarantine, mandatory mask and face-shield wearing and other social protocols as the vaccines come – is wrong.
It is so irresponsible for this writer to cut and paste a piece on the calculation that Filipinos will believe an article since their colonial mentality tells them a US publication is always accurate. And he didn’t even point out that it was an opinion piece and not a straight news article reporting on a scientific study.
This is the problem with lazy cut-and-paste writing, you can’t present other sides to an issue. If you really want to be fair to your readers and report the different views on a topic, you’d have to cut and paste so many articles that you’d end up filling up two pages of a newspaper, with another smart-alecky columnist complaining that the Manila Times has turned into a news-clipping service.
Google “Sweden, pandemic, Covid-19” and you’ll find that out of 10 articles on the topic, eight narrate how it terribly failed and one explains certain very unique features of the Swedish people that helped it address the pandemic despite the government’s stance or lack of it.
The Swedish model, and the fact that it was undertaken by one of the most developed and civilized nations in the world, is a serious threat to society. It is really of the same genre as American housewives refusing to have their children wear masks (as shown in a CNN report), claiming that it will “reduce oxygen my kid will breathe, and therefore affect his mind.” Or millions of Americans’ refusal to have themselves vaccinated, claiming this would be violating their freedom over their bodies. The Swedish model is the height of the science-denial thinking.
This is not just my opinion. A scientific study (not an opinion piece) entitled “The Covid-19 pandemic and the Swedish strategy: Epidemiology and Postmodernism” by a Lund University professor concluded:
“Overconfidence in herd immunity, overconfidence in individual responsibility in solving a pandemic… may be associated with post-materialist values and postmodernism, including opposition against modern authority, rationality and science, and an anti-traditionalist stance towards the experience of older generations.”
Translate that to plain English and it would be: “They’re nuts.”
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