Kashif Virk, Missionary, Stockholm
You might have read it in the news – the Swedish strategy to tackle the spread of Covid-19 is quite different from the rest of the world. It has at times been described as a very dangerous strategy, where thousands of lives are at stake. Although the impact of the pandemic is having its clear effect on the society even in Sweden, but no doubt one can feel that life here, currently, is not so restricted as in many other places of the world.
Criticism against the strategy – both internal and external – is mounting. Recently, US President Donald Trump had his say on the situation in Sweden, a country he claimed suffered “very gravely” due to the virus. Within Sweden, experts are voicing their concerns that Sweden is not doing enough to tackle the pandemic and that it is resulting in an ever-increasing loss of human life. The Swedish Folkhalsomyndigheten (FHM) is in charge of the Swedish strategy and the government is currently relying heavily in their expertise. (https://edition.cnn.com/videos/world/2020/04/13/sweden-coronavirus-lockdown-black-lead-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/coronavirus-intl/)
Sweden is in many ways a country different from others. According to the renowned World Value Survey, Sweden positions itself at one of the extremes of the table (see below) as a country which cherishes secular-rationalistic and individualistic values, as against traditional and survival values. Many say this has had an impact on the methods adopted to tackle Covid-19.
Restaurants are still open, local transport is running and, for the most part, the authorities have relied on recommendations rather than enforced prohibitions. Although universities and colleges are teaching online, O-level children are still expected to turn up to school. The reasons given for this range from “both parents have to go to work” and “to save children living in troubled homes from abuse”. No doubt, the economy of Sweden has suffered immensely, just as that of any country. Many have lost their employment and small businesses are hit hard.
But what exactly is the Swedish strategy, in brief?
The Swedish state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell of the FHM says it’s all about “flattening the curve of severe cases”, not to burden the medical services beyond its capacity and safeguarding the elderly and most vulnerable. This, he says, will enable Sweden to cope with the virus for what is most probably going to be a prolonged period. The virus cannot be stopped as long as there is no vaccine or the population develops what is called a “herd-immunity”. This means that the virus can no longer spread further from person to person. But “herd-immunity” is not an aim in itself of the Swedish strategy, rather the natural result of it.
Sadly, statistics show that this strategy is having its toll. Sweden currently has a mortality rate of 15.52 per 100,000 during Covid-19 (John Hopkins University). The death-toll, currently at 1,200, is far higher than that of other Scandinavian countries. Alarms have been raised that, perhaps due to the negligent strategy, the virus has found its way into many care homes and that the country thus has failed to save the most vulnerable in society.
As a citizen of this wonderful country, I am not alone in hoping for a more solid approach to contain the virus. Although we learn more about the virus every day, the fact is that we know very little about how dangerous it actually can be. A strategy must be based on the worst-case scenario.
As Ahmadi Muslims, we are blessed with the guidance and prayers of our beloved Imam, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V, may Allah be his Helper. To hear his voice every week is both soothing and inspiring.
It is with beloved Huzoor’saa prayers and guidance that the Jamaat in Sweden, in addition to taking necessary precautional measures against the spread, is also doing its outmost to serve humanity through the charity Humanity First. (https://twitter.com/humanityfirstse)
Moreover, a holistic approach for an Ahmadi Muslim must include prayers and supplications to Allah the Almighty, that may humanity be saved from this pandemic and may it be rejuvenated to build a more just and sustainable world in its aftermath. Amin