Shutting down Sweden to stop the pandemic is turning the health crisis into an economic crisis, says Lars Jonung, professor of economics. According to him, the push for a lockdown is driven by the desire to show action and come off as efficient, rather than scientific research.
Recently, more and more Swedes have tested positive for covid-19 and there is a debate about whether Sweden should be shut down to stop the virus from advancing. Among others, Fredrik Elgh, professor of virology at Umeå University, has said that a shutdown may be needed. Lars Jonung, professor of economics at Lund University, does not believe in that solution.
“My hope is that despite this new wave, politicians have learned that we cannot get out of the problem through lockdowns, we must accept that the economy should work as well as possible and it does so with minimum of disruption.”
Lars Jonung believes that powerful lockdowns cause problems for the economy without demonstrably reducing the death toll. He believes that a comprehensive lockdown would hit welfare hard, especially against the weakest in society, such as those with precarious employment. “We are still in the middle of the pandemic. The research works with the available data, but so far the research provides little support for lockdowns.”
Jonung refers to both a study he himself did at the European Commission in 2006, and ongoing research by, among others, the Danish economist Christian Bjørnskov. “If everyone goes down to the basement, we do not have much to come back to, it will be financial harakiri. We must keep the economy going to keep hospitals, healthcare, schools and education running.”
Germany is a role model
Jonung touts the German approach as the most successful. They have very low death rates and have had fewer lockdowns and succeeded better than, for example, France and Spain. He believes that France, Spain and the United Kingdom are examples of how total lockdowns do decrease the death toll. At the same time, other Nordic countries have managed to keep their death toll at lower levels than the Swedish. A common denominator for the neighbouring countries is that they have had harder lockdowns than Sweden.
Regarding this Jonung says, “Each country is specific, it may be that lockdowns work more efficiently in a particular country. But if we look at the average in the whole of Europe, it is not possible to say that it is an effective method.”