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Should Alberta have modelled its COVID-19 response on Sweden?

Last Updated May 21, 2020 at 8:57 am MDT

CALGARY (CityNews) – Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health has faced some heat for how the province has handled the COVID-19 lockdown with many arguing Alberta should have modelled its response on Sweden.

“The government put minimal stay at home or physical distancing orders in place. Instead, Sweden made recommendations for people to take these steps whenever possible’ said Alberta Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

Elementary schools stayed open along with most retailers and restaurants while banning large gatherings and shutting down high schools and universities. But the formula has been far from perfect as updated numbers from Monday show.

“Their toll was 3,698 deaths. That is 36 deaths per 100,000 in their population which is 12 times Alberta’s rate of 3 per 100,000 population,” said Hinshaw. “In addition, their ICU admission rate was 13 times Alberta’s”

Craig Jenne from the University of Calgary said it’s difficult to compare Canada to Sweden or the United States because the lifestyles are very different.

“The demographics are different but when comparing Sweden to say Norway or Finland, with very similar dynamics and population distribution Sweden, has seen 10 times more fatalities then it’s neighbours.”

Jenne points out the fact that most of the deaths in the Nordic country have been people over the age of 70.

“The more extreme shift to fatalities in the older population in Sweden is likely a combination of things including possibly a better resiliency in the younger population because of factors that don’t come into play here in Canada.”

As for the economy, the unemployment rate in Sweden is around 8 per cent in Canada it’s about 13 per cent but there’s more to that story.

“Their economy has also shrunk in a similar way to neighbouring countries who used much more aggressive containment measures,” said Hinshaw.

While citizens may be allowed to more freely move around their own country, Sweden may risk alienating those nervous neighbours who have also expressed concerns over its COVID-19 policies.

With no right way to approach a pandemic like COVID-19, it will be years before enough analysis can be done to see what worked and what didn’t.