Swedish officials reacted to the coronavirus pandemic too slowly, according to findings released on Friday by a commission charged with examining the country's Covid-19 response.
"The initial disease prevention and control measures were insufficient to stop or even substantially limit the spread of the virus in the country," read a preliminary version of the report.
Sweden was an outlier in the Western world in its response to the pandemic, eschewing lockdowns and allowing its residents the right to decide for themselves whether to self-isolate or not. Most other countries sent non-essential workers home in an attempt to control the disease's spread.
The commission is now trying to evaluate whether that approach was wise. A final report is expected in February. But the preliminary report states that it now seems likely that the infection spread far more dramatically in March 2020 than it appeared to in the real-time data officials were using at the time.
The commission also criticized the government's tardiness in setting up testing and tracking systems.
"The commission considers that the process took too long and that the late implementation of tracing hampered efforts to fight the pandemic," read the report, noting that testing systems should have been put into place much earlier.
It also criticized the fact that the delay in setting up such a system was due to debates about responsibility for and financing of such a system. That led to no system of widespread testing in place until after the end of the first wave of the pandemic in Sweden.
Stricter measures needed
The report also argues that the government should have created the legal guidelines for stricter measures earlier in the pandemic.
"It should already have been clear during the first wave that the tools provided by the Communicable Diseases Act were insufficient," it said.
But those tougher guidelines didn't come into place until the second and third waves. Those included restrictions on restaurant visits, family quarantines, crowd restrictions and recommendations for mask use. The back and forth led to confusion among the populace, it said.
About 1.2 million people in Sweden have become infected so far during the pandemic, with about 15,000 deaths. Sweden has a population of about 10 million.