In the latest edition of Your Say, Crikey readers are happy about James Baillieu’s latest article in which he claimed that Australia should take a page from Sweden’s COVID gamebook. But even the most passionate defenders of shutdowns and border closures admit that we may be able to learn something from our Scandinavian friends when it comes to launching the vaccine …
Dechlan Brennan writes: I thought James Baillieu’s article was hyperbole and fear of intimidation, things he ironically detests.
Sweden really went another way in response to the pandemic, and finally the bill has suffered more than 14,000 deaths – this for a country with half the population of Australia and with a strong healthcare system that is reliably funded by taxation.
There’s more to Crikey than you think.
Australia’s shutdowns have been harsh and harmful to many people’s mental health, but our death toll is nowhere near Sweden’s.
Ending the lockdown and prescribing the “day of freedom” that made Britain will not happen – and for good reason. In Israel, the high overall vaccination rate hid the low proportion in the Gaza Strip and the ultra-Orthodox community. Australia’s indigenous people would be at great risk from the deadly Delta variant, with much less access to healthcare than countries like Sweden if we ‘let it tear’.
The freedoms are coming back, and not a moment too soon for many. But irresponsible fear of saying that we must measure deaths against what is good for the country (read economics) is not the answer.
Carol Ey writes: It seems that both Baillieu and Adam Schwab have drunk the Swedish Kool aid in their desire to “let it tear” in Australia. It is also important that they sing Sweden’s economic praise without actually quoting numbers.
Comparing the outcome in Sweden with the United Kingdom and the United States indicates relative success, but a comparison with its Scandinavian neighbors gives a completely different story. The death rate per capita from COVID in Denmark was about a third of Sweden’s, and Norway’s was almost ten times lower. And both (and Australia) have had better economic results.
Was Australia could learning from Sweden is in relation to its vaccine rollout. Australia has about 36% of its adult population fully vaccinated, Sweden has reached over 60% and more than 10% of the Swedish population has recovered from COVID, which provides an additional layer of immunity.
Carolyn Fuller writes: I listened to a webinar with the Swedish epidemiologist Dr Anders Tegnell in April 2020. He was very engaging and convincing, but he also said that we will not know for at least two years if he was right or wrong.
Since I am a bit of a Swedophile, I regularly look at the COVID statistics for Sweden and Australia and I was therefore interested in Baillieu’s opinion piece. He really makes it sound like Sweden has done everything right and Australia everything wrong. But some basic statistics from Google this morning roughly show that Sweden’s population is 40% in Australia and its covid cases are almost 20 times higher. In the same way, the number of deaths in Sweden is almost 15 times that in Australia.
Had we done as Sweden, I doubt the Australians would accept three million cases and more than 36,000 deaths. Would our hospital systems have managed 3 million cases? How many of them would have been long covid-affected, and what would be the future cost of our healthcare system?
Of course, we may not have done everything right, but I doubt that Sweden has done it either. Except maybe for vaccines. With 57% of the population fully vaccinated and 67% with at least one dose, it is well before our dumb walk.
Victoria Heffernan writes: I could not agree more with Baillieu. I also have a connection to Sweden – my daughter and three grandchildren live in Stockholm – and I am very relieved that they are not here.
My grandchildren have all continued in school and preschool, have not been scared and have enjoyed their leisure activities and sports. The family has just returned from a summer holiday in Spain where everyone was out and enjoying life. The children were very happy to wear masks on the plane – they had not seen masks before.
At the same time, my second daughter who lives in regional NSW has had to close her café / lunch service, has received very little compensation and is very afraid that when she can eventually reopen, many people will be afraid to go out. And many workplaces may not return to full capacity. She will also have to pay back deferral of rents no matter how her business goes in the future.
Julienne Leathart writes: I am a former primary school teacher from NSW’s public school system (quite a long time ago now) mainly in a disadvantaged inner city school – the last two years teaching the school’s kindergarten class.
One of my big frustrations was that the school year began in February, the hottest month. My students would start the first semester eager and eager to learn, but in the afternoon of the first 32+ degree day they were over it. This applied to all grades, but try to teach a class of 28 four- to five-year-olds after spending the lunch break in the sandstone bubbles and trying to get cool.
We are losing so much student motivation and achievement – and climate change will make this worse.
COVID can be a switch where we can reject the time so that the school year begins in the autumn. The hottest term would then be term four, of which much is handed over to concerts at the end of the year, picnics and plays. Swimming carnivals can also take place then rather than at the beginning of the school year.
I realize that this would require the adaptation of many companies – not least the tourism sector – but the benefits would outweigh the difficulties.
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