‘Herd Immunity’ Is a Failed Response to Coronavirus
Denmark and Sweden are often compared regarding their handling of coronavirus-19 because the two Scandinavian countries are similar to one-another in many ways but took very different approaches to dealing with the coronavirus challenge. Whereas Sweden took a libertarian approach (meaning minimal regulations) and aimed to develop a ‘herd immunity’ to the disease, Denmark took the opposite path and imposed social-distancing measures, mask-wearing, and more.
As I reported regarding these two countries, in my April 22nd “Why Post-Coronavirus America Will Have Massive Poverty”,
Here, therefore, is the actual performance, thus far, of both of those two countries:
DENMARK = 1,329 [cases per million residents] peaked April 7th
SWEDEN = 1,517 peaked April 8th
Both of them are reasonably comparable to Germany, UK, Turkey, and Iran, but not as good as S. Korea, and not nearly as good as the two best, China and Japan.
On May 11th, I headlined “America’s Percentage of World’s Coronavirus Cases Is Now Declining”, and reported regarding Denmark and Sweden, that,
As of the start of the day on May 10th, those numbers are:
DENMARK = 1,782 (up 34%)
SWEDEN = 2,567 (up 69%)
Consequently, as more time passes, Denmark’s policy is considerably more effective at keeping down the number of cases than is Sweden’s.
Furthermore: whereas Sweden had tested only 14,704 persons per million (which is a very low percentage), Denmark had tested 53,345 per million (which is an extremely high percentage), and this fact likewise indicates that whereas Sweden, which has been reducing its socialism and increasing its libertarianism, is pursuing a remarkably libertarian approach to Covid-19, Denmark, which remains socialistic, is pursuing a remarkably socialist approach. And Denmark’s approach is increasingly better than Sweden’s in terms of keeping down the percentage of Covid-19 cases.
As regards the economies of those two countries: The unemployment rate in Denmark at the end of March 2020 was 4.1% and that was 170,000 unemployed; and as of May 5th there are 180,000 unemployed Danes; so, Denmark’s productivity hasn’t been much affected yet by Covid 19.
By contrast: Reuters headlined on April 14th, “Swedish unemployment rate could reach 10% by summer – Labour Board”, and reported that “Unemployment in Sweden could reach 10% in the coming months if the current wave of lay-offs due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus continues, the Labour Board said. … Unemployment was 7.4% in February, but many companies have since shut down and sent workers home due to supply chain problems and measures to prevent the spread of the virus.” On May 7th, the Wall Street Journal bannered “Sweden Has Avoided a Coronavirus Lockdown. Its Economy Is Hurting Anyway.”
Here was the story regarding the number of cases per million, as of June 17th:
DENMARK = 2,123 (up another 19%)
SWEDEN = 5,404 ( up another 111%)
And here it is as of June 28th:
DENMARK = 2,188 (up another 3%)
SWEDEN = 5,450 (up another 1%)
During that 11-day interim, Sweden was imposing basically the same measures that Denmark was. It worked.
Furthermore: whereas on April 22nd Denmark had a coronavirus death-rate of 64 per million residents, Sweden had a coronavirus death-rate of 175 per million residents; and those numbers on june 17th were: 103 in Denmark, and 499 in Sweden. Denmark’s rose 61% while Sweden’s rose 185%. So, also on death-rates, the two countries were increasingly far apart.
Whereas Denmark’s death-rate on June 28th is 104, Sweden’s is 523. Denmark’s rose from 103 to 104, and Sweden’s rose from 499 to 523.
Sweden’s unemployment rate rose from 6% in December 2019 to 9% in May 2020. Denmark’s was 3.7% till February 2020 and shot up to 5.4% by April 2020.
Sweden’s experiment with ‘herd immunity’ is over. That approach failed. It didn’t even produce better economic results. (Actually, the biggest economic impacts from Covid-19 will be the enormous per-patient healthcare costs, which are yet to be tabulated, but what they will mean is already clear: keeping the numbers of cases down will keep future healthcare costs down. The ‘herd immunity’ countries will suffer enormously higher healthcare costs.)
On June 15th, the German international polling firm Dalia Research reported its survey results from polling 124,000 respondents in 53 countries throughout the world, under the heading “People around the world judge their government’s COVID-19 response”, and they showed that Danes’ rating of their Government’s response was the 8th from the top, whereas Swedes’ ratings of theirs was 29th from the top. (China was rated the best at #1, and Brazil the worst at #53. America ranked #48. Most of the countries near the top took a socialistic approach to dealing with the coronavirus, and most of the countries near the bottom took a libertarian approach. However, the correlation between that ranking and ideology wasn’t nearly as strong as was ideology’s correlation with the internationally reported performance-data. For example, libertarian-run Peru was #40 but its numbers were actually far worse than that, because the libertarian population population distrusted the Government so much as to ignore the Government’s recommendations. So, Peru wasn’t just libertarian, it was chaotic, and its infection-numbers were terrible. Japan took a basically socialistic approach and its ratios on coronavirus are among the world’s best, but because the Japanese people had expected an even more socialistic approach, they thought their Government’s performance was lax and rated it at #49, which is one notch below that of the obviously failed, and quite libertarian, U.S.A. Similarly, Hong Kong, on June 17th, had had a total of only 1,121 coronavirus-19 cases and 4 deaths, compared to NYC’s 215,686 cases and 21,645 deaths, while Hong Kong’s population is 89% as large as is NYC’s; and, yet, because of Hong Kong’s anti-Government demonstrations and such, Hong Kongers rated their Government’s coronavirus-performance at #44 out of the 53. Probably NYC residents wouldn’t believe that their government is 192 times worse than Hong Kong’s on cases, and 5,411 times worse on deaths, and probably Hong Kong residents wouldn’t believe it either, but it’s true.)
Given the world’s coronavirus-19 experience, anyone who still remains a libertarian is simply beyond the reach of evidence, because the evidence against it is now overwhelming. The corpses are clear, about the matter.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.