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Did no-lockdown Sweden have a pandemic? Will India learn 'right lessons' for future?

By Bhaskaran Raman 
“Sweden’s Covid policy is a model for the right. It’s also a deadly folly”
-- The Guardian, 23 May 2020
“The Swedish COVID-19 Response Is a Disaster. It Shouldn’t Be a Model for the Rest of the World”
-- Time Magazine, 14 October 2020
“In Sweden, Infections and Calls for a Lockdown Are Rising”
-- The New York Times, 15 December 2020
“Jay Bhattacharya continues to advocate for herd immunity on Covid, despite his much-touted Swedish model resulting in an unnatural number of deaths.”
-- The Print, 20 Dec 2022

***
The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2022 was released by NGO Pratham recently. It measures a small part of the unimaginable damage to the 260 million children of India, due to school closure following the declaration of the Covid-19 pandemic: literacy progress of nearly a decade has been wiped out. But was such damage necessary? Is it right to blame the damage on the virus? Was Covid-19 responsible for the damage or our response to it in terms of school closure and lockdown?
Was lockdown a reasonable response to Covid-19? Was it supported by science? Did it save lives? Or was it a terrible mistake which not only failed to save lives but also crushed lives? It is important to ask and answer these questions, so that the right lessons are learnt for the future.
In early to mid-March 2020 various European countries had started to lockdown, one after another, in response to Covid-19. But there was one prominent exception: Sweden. Dr. Anders Tegnell who was in charge of Sweden's Covid-19 response refused to lockdown. Sweden never shutdown its society and kept its schools open for all children under-16 throughout. For deviating from the “norm” of the draconian lockdown response, Sweden was vilified and castigated in the media, as exemplified by the quotes above.
So just how bad was the Covid-19 pandemic in no-lockdown, no-mask-mandate Sweden? This does not need rocket science; it is rather easy for the reader to check with only high-school mathematics and 10-minutes of spreadsheet work.
The figure below shows the all-cause deaths-per-million population for various 3-month windows (data source: link). The heaviest Covid-19 casualties of Sweden's first wave were during the 3-month window of April-to-June 2020. The 24 windows of 3-month duration each, from January 2015 to December 2020, are in random order in the x-axis. One of those 3-month windows is April-June 2020. Can you spot it from the graph? I encourage the reader to pause and make a genuine attempt at answering the question before proceeding; you can type the given URL https://tinyurl.com/panspotwin or scan the QR code to attempt the question online.
Visually, bars F, I and S look among the tallest with B and H close. The correct answer is besides the point here. Importantly, the “deadliest” 3-month window of Sweden's first wave is visually or statistically indistinguishable from prior 3-month windows. Clearly, no one clamoured for lockdown or mask mandates in any of the prior years.
The figure below shows the answer to the question. We can see that April-June 2020, the 3 months of Sweden's first wave of Covid-19, for which it was vilified as being callous, is not the highest in terms of deaths-per-million. Compared to other recent prior 3-month windows, it is the second highest. The highest was in the winter in early 2015, and close behind in third place was the even more recent winter in early 2018.
The figure also shows that the second wave of Covid-19, the majority of which was in the 3-month window of October to December of 2020, was even lower in terms of mortality, than the first wave during April to June 2020.
Given these comparisons of Sweden's two waves of Covid-19 with past periods, was the castigation of Sweden in the media and in scientific circles justified? Or did Sweden handle Covid-19 exceedingly well?
It is also worth noting that in 2022, while the vast majority of Europe is having overall mortality comparable to the pandemic years 2020 & 2021, or even higher, Sweden hardly shows any excess mortality. So one has to ask:
Did lockdown in other countries like India save any lives, or only increase mortality due to increased diabetes, anxiety, obesity among some, poverty and starvation among many, vitamin-D deficiency, lack of exercise, lack of access to healthcare, etc?
---
*Professor at IIT Bombay; views are personal. The above writeup is an excerpt from his recent book “Math Murder in Media Manufactured Madness”, presenting simple math to illustrate various absurdities related to the mainstream Covid-19 narrative; available at: https://bhaskaranraman.in/

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