Tuesday, November 24, 2020

How Finland and Norway Proved Sweden’s Approach to COVID-19 Works

The coronavirus is back in force. Many nations around the world are seeing alarming rises in cases and deaths, totals that in many instances exceed the highs reached in March, April, and May.

From the beginning of the pandemic, governments around the world have tried to tame the virus. All have failed, to varying degrees.

Whether governments implement draconian lockdowns, modest lockdowns, or no lockdowns at all, the virus has spread. Some countries with harsh lockdowns have fared better; many have fared worse. As some have pointed out, the virus doesn’t seem to care what policies you put in place.

Belgium, for example, has the second highest COVID-19 death rate in the world even though it implemented one of the strictest lockdowns in the world (81.5 stringency). Italy and Spain had even harsher lockdowns, and both countries are also among the most devastated by the virus. (Italy’s current death rate is lower than that of Belgium and Spain, but the country is facing a resurgence of the virus that looks positively frightening.)

We can measure lockdown stringency because of a feature created by Our World in Data, a research team based at the University of Oxford that produces information in all sorts of wonderful charts and graphs.

While most of the world went into lockdown in March, Swedish officials chose to forgo a full lockdown, opting instead for a “lighter touch” approach that relied on cooperation with citizens, who were given public health information and encouraged to behave responsibly.

Our World in Data shows Sweden’s government response stringency never reached 50, peaking at about 46 from late April to early June.  (As a point of reference, the US averaged a stringency of about 70 from March to September.) This is well below the top stringency of Spain (85) and Italy (94). 

Yet, Sweden’s per capita death rate is lower than Spain, Belgium, Italy and other nations despite the fact that it did not initiate a lockdown. As a result, Sweden’s economy was spared much of the damage these nations suffered (though not all).

Despite the apparent success of Sweden’s strategy, the Swedes have found themselves attacked. The New York Times has described Sweden’s policy as a “cautionary tale,” while other media outlets have used it as an illustration of how not to handle the coronavirus.

Critics of Sweden’s policy point out that although Sweden has experienced fewer deaths than many European nations, it has suffered more than its Nordic neighbors, Finland and Norway.

This is true, but it needs to be contextualized.

Norway and Finland have some of the lowest COVID-19 death rates in the world, with 54 deaths per one million citizens and 66 per million respectively. This is well below the median in Europe (240 per million) and Sweden’s rate (605 per million).

What these critics fail to realize is that both Finland and Norway have had less restrictive policies than Sweden for the bulk of the pandemic—not more lockdowns.

Norway’s lockdown stringency has been less than 40 since early June, and fell all the way to 28.7 in September and October. Finland’s lockdown stringency followed a similar pattern, floating around the mid to low 30s for most of the second half of the year, before creeping back up to 41 around Halloween.

When people compare Sweden unfavorably to Finland and Norway to dismiss its laissez-faire policy, they are drawing the opposite conclusion from what the data point really reveals. Yes, Finland and Norway have lower deaths than Sweden—but they have actually been more laissez-faire than their neighbor for the majority of the pandemic.


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Since June, Finland and Norway have had less restrictive government policies than Sweden, and both nations have endured the coronavirus remarkably well. They have been among the freest nations in the world since early June, and COVID-19 deaths have been miniscule.

Neither country even has a mask mandate, though both implemented mask recommendations in August. In Norway, private gatherings in public places are still permitted, though the capacity was recently reduced to 50 people (down from 200).

In Finland, people say daily life hasn’t changed very much.

“My daily life actually hasn’t been affected too much,” healthcare assistant Gegi Aydin told one local news station.

The lighter touch approach can be seen in their economies, as well. In the second quarter of 2020, Norway and Finland saw their economies contract by 6.3 percent and 6.4 percent respectively. That’s about half the 11.8 percent drop of the European Union, and well below that experienced by Spain (-18.5%) and the United Kingdom (-19.1%). It’s even lower than that of Sweden, which saw a decline of 8.6 percent.

Despite their low lockdown stringency, Norway and Finland are among the only places in Europe you’ll find considered safe for travel.

As I’ve pointed out before, people aren’t attacking the results of Sweden’s policies. They are attacking the nature of its policies. Of course, there are many nations that have been hit much harder than Sweden. But these nations are ignored because they don’t threaten the narrative that government lockdowns work, and that millions more would have died without them.

Norway and Finland show that the coronavirus doesn’t care about government policy. Their numbers have remained low with moderately strict lockdowns and with laissez-faire policies. 

With the coronavirus resurging around the world, there is talk of implementing another round of crippling lockdowns. World leaders are facing immense pressure to “do something.”

This would be a mistake. Lockdowns come with severe and deadly unintended consequences. Moreover, they have proven utterly ineffective at taming the virus—which is why the World Health Organization is now advising against their use.

The reality is, humans are unwilling to accept how powerless they are to stop this virus. They are unwilling to admit they cannot control it.

Decades ago, in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, the economist F.A. Hayek warned of the dangers of such hubris. If man continued to live in ignorance of the limits of his knowledge, it would breed a “fatal striving to control society – a striving which makes him not only a tyrant over his fellows, but which may well make him the destroyer of a civilization…”

It’s a lesson that has never been more important. We’ll soon know if it's one we’re finally prepared to learn.

Jon Miltimore
Jon Miltimore

Jonathan Miltimore is the Managing Editor of His writing/reporting has been the subject of articles in TIME magazine, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Forbes, Fox News, and the Star Tribune.

Bylines: Newsweek, The Washington Times,, The Washington Examiner, The Daily Caller, The Federalist, the Epoch Times. 

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Vintage Photos - Oestreicher (813-816)

See the previous post in this series here.

I had the opportunity to pick up a huge batch of slides a while back. These are pictures span from as early as the late 1940s to as late as the early 1990s. These came to me second hand but the original source was a combination of estate sales and Goodwill. There are several thousand...maybe as many as 10,000. I will be scanning some from time to time and posting them here for posterity.

Apparently, getting your pictures processed as slides used to be a fairly common thing but it was a phenomenon I missed out on. However, my Grandfather had a few dozen slides (circa late 1950s) that I acquired after he died. That along with having some negatives I wanted to scan is what prompted me to buy a somewhat decent flatbed scanner that could handle slides and negatives, an Epson V600. It can scan up to four slides at a time with various post-processing options and does a decent enough job.

This set continues a rather large batch of slides that originally came from an estate sale and appear to have belonged to a locally well known photographer (or perhaps a friend or family member) from the Spokane Washington area and later Northern Idaho named Leo Oestreicher. He was known for his portrait and landscape photography and especially for post cards. His career started in the 1930s and he died in 1990. These slides contain a lot of landscape and portrait photos but also a lot of photos from day to day life and various vacations around the world. Here's an article on him from 1997 which is the only info I have found on him:

Many of these slides had the date they were processed stamped or printed on them. I've found that in cases where I could verify the date, either because a more specific date was hand written or there was something to specifically date the photo in the photo itself, that this date has typically been the same month the photos were taken. In other words, I expect that in MOST cases these photos were taken relatively near the processing date.

Click on one of the images or the link below to also see versions processed with color restoration and Digital ICE which is a hardware based dust and scratch remover, a feature of the Epson V600 scanner I am using. There are also versions processed with the simpler dust removal option along with color restoration.

All of the photos in this set were taken in the early 1960s. The first is of a river somewhere, the second shows a guy sitting at his desk in an office somewhere, the third is a closeup of a young girl and the final shot shows a group of (mostly) kids hanging out. There's that one guy in a chair reading a book called "The Dogs in My Life"...

July 1961

August 1962

August 1962

August 1962

The entire collection that has been scanned and uploaded so far can also be found here.