Let’s talk about Sweden.

If I had a million rand to spend on a car right now I’d buy a Volvo. Hell, even my dream 3-car garage has a Volvo as the first purchase, no matter how much money I come into (there’s levels to my dreams, mos). I also love many other Swedish things and would totally move my family there if given the opportunity.

But unlike most of the sudden Scandinavian fans on your social media time lines, I’ve been there and don’t agree with everything they’re doing, especially around the COVID-19 pandemic. Let me explain.

Sweden has already seen over 2 700 COVID-19 fatalities from its population of 10-million, with over 23 000 total infections. There has, as you may know, however been no lockdown. That doesn’t mean there aren’t social distancing measures in place, though.

There’s no public gatherings of more than 50 people, restaurants and bars can only serve seated people and working from home is encouraged. Non-essential travel is also being actively discouraged and universities have closed – except for the libraries and laboratories. It’s pretty much like the week before our nationwide lockdown was enforced.

Those in charge of the COVID-19 response also say that the high death toll – which is the highest in the Scandinavian region – came as a surprise, especially that half of the dead are among the elderly in nursing homes.

While the elderly and other at-risk people are asked to stay home, there is no mask wearing and no active social distancing regulations for private groups or informal gatherings like in parks or larger restaurants.

What grates me, though, is this notion of “herd immunity” that gets bandied about by medical professionals. Please read this and imprint it on your heart: YOU CANNOT ACHIEVE HERD IMMUNITY WITHOUT A VACCINE.

Think of a vaccine as the turbocharger for a small capacity engine. Without the forced induction the 900cc doesn’t pull the same tonnage as easily. Vaccines allow large numbers of people to develop the desired immune response to fight off a specific strain of virus. There’s also insufficient data on reinfection, so we literally do not know if those who already got contracted the virus unknowingly are immune to it. In all the stated rationale is flawed at best and irresponsible at worst.

But I digress.

The beauty of this virus is that it exposes the scientific method to the masses. What we know to be true today may not be as true as we once thought tomorrow. South Africa’s first COVID-19 fatality, for instance, suffered a pulmonary embolism. What does a blood clot have to do with a respiratory disease a close friend asked me. As it turns out, quite a lot.

Earth’s best and brightest are currently concentrated around finding solutions to our problems and there are no answers yet. Even Taiwan and, by extension, the Czech Republic won’t say they have the answers, but they’re pretty much the furthest down the road to controlling this pandemic.

Oh yes, we were talking about Sweden. South Africa and Sweden are not the same by almost every measure. Did you know they have food kiosks at Gothenburg’s airport that serve strict Paleo diet food? My experience of the country’s cuisine was quite broad with event catering canapés, restaurants and cafes all serving up clean food that wasn’t deep-fried or loaded with salt.

I don’t even recall seeing a KFC while I was there, or even high levels of obesity. I make a habit of seeking out the middle classes when I travel and by the conversation with locals having a holiday home in the countryside as well as an apartment in the city is pretty commonplace.

My point is that half of our fatalities had underlying conditions like hypertension and diabetes, which current science shows can be treated through nutrition. The income tax in Sweden is crazy high and quality healthcare is free. South Africa has high levels of inequality, a crumbling public health system and is affected by poor nutrition habits among the lower earners.

Imagine what 2 000 critical hospital admissions for COVID-19 would do to our healthcare system. Imagine a world where we blindly followed the Swedish approach to this pandemic and we were faced with those kind of numbers over and above the regular health emergencies that our society serves to trauma units when alcohol is flowing among the populace.

South Africa is not Sweden.

 

 

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