Even if the Corona virus continues to create havoc across the globe, isolating yourself at home becomes more and more cumbersome. Of course, only in your mind, less so in reality. What you can endure for a month or two, gets irky thereafter, in particular since the authorities see no end to it.
But this blog is not about complaining about self-isolation. Far from it! We have to look the grim reaper squarely in the eye and deflect the scythe he is swinging at us. Instead, let me spend som moments on the plague strategy exercised by the Swedish authorities, in particular, to what extent it is helping us elderly to avoid the death stroke.
The reason I am writing about this at all, is, of course, that many a foreign friend has contacted me about the subject, wanting to know more about our ways of dealing with the plague, at the same time informing me about the status of research in their own countries and querying me about progress in that regard here in the land of the all-knowing.
Sorry to say, my answer to them is, at present, that the Swedish authorities seem to be committed to a specific conception of the plague, which they reached early on in their actions and which they have been clinging to, without blinking, ever since. This conception is based on the vision, that this plague is being spred in analogy to the recurring invasions of influenca virus, with a virulent beginning and a relatively timely end, once a sufficient rate of the population has been through the ordeal and has developed anti-bodies. And indeed, in the case of influenca so called "herd immunity" will be reached eventually, which will greatly slow down and ultimately stop the disease.
Although the Swedish Public Health Authority denies that it relies on a timely reaching of herd immunity in enacting its strategy, this idea is still permeating the authority, shutting down its eyes to alternative findings from research abroad, which would oblige it to change its messages to the general public. To find a reason for this, look no further than to Professor Johan Giesecke, the former Chief State Epidemiologist, who acts as adviser to the authority. In contrast to the present State Epidemiologist and his colleagues, he is rather outspoken about the above mentioned vision inspiring the Swedish strategy. With his mature age and a certain self-imposed authority he has no qualms about speaking out what the agency is holding close to its chest. Why not listen to him in person in the video below:
I am no medical or epidemiologic scientist, but let me put forward an alternative vision of the spread of this virus. You may not be aware of it, but humanity has lived with a special sort of Corona virus since ages past. It is one of the viruses behind the "Common Cold", "Schnupfen" in German and "Snuva" in Swedish. Scientists without Sweden are increasingly looking at the properties of this illness to try to understand how the present plague is spreading and what could constitute its eventual demise. With the common cold, humans apparently do not develop anti-bodies against the virus involved; the general immune system deflects it within a short time period. This is of course no long-term remedy, you will get it again next year!
Compared to this, the present Corona virus is developing anti-bodies in some of the cases, mostly the more severe cases of illness, whereas probably a majority of the infected recovers without developing anti-bodies, many of them without even experiencing any symptoms – but still spreading the virus. This means that, increasingly, scientists abroad question the possibility of developing herd immunity against the disease; we may have to reckon with, on the one hand, a drawn-out first wave of the sickness and, on the other, recurring waves of new infection. Developing a vaccine against the virus becomes adamant in getting rid of the virus.
Seen in this light, it seems to me that the Swedish authorities have completely overlooked one major and all-important difference between its strategy and that in our Nordic neighbours and, indeed, the rest of the world: the obligation to wear a mask in confined quarters, such as, shops, restaurants and service centers implying close contact between people. By now, there is a lot of research showing that a mask diminishes the outflow of virus-laden mucus by up to 50 %, drastically lowering the infection rate in close quarters. For me, not prescribing the use of masks in Sweden accounts for most of the difference in the death rate between us and the other Nordic countries.
We have to realise that a simple recommendation to wear a mask in close quarters would not be enough to get the Swedes to actually do it. The simple reason is that a mask does not prevent you from getting infected, it only prevents you from spreading the disease if you are infected, so there are no incentives to do as the state recommends. This means that it takes a legal obligation to get everyone to wear a mask indoors in close quarters to reach an appropriate mitigation of the disease.
To me it seems, that the Swedish authorities are paying lip service when they claim that their main goal is to protect the elderly from the disease. By stating that wearing a mask has no great preventive effect, as is being repeated by them at regular intervalls, they may be directly responsible for the premature demise of maybe thousands of elderly in Sweden to date. And the number is rising by the day. Shame on you, you Swedish Bureaucrats!