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Now the Swedish model has failed, it’s time to ask who was pushing it | Peter Geoghegan

A light-touch approach to Covid-19 doesn’t work. But that didn’t stop pundits and thinktanks from advocating it for the UK

When future historians come to write the story of Britain’s chaotic pandemic response, one question in particular will surely puzzle them: why, as the UK experienced one of the world’s worst Covid outbreaks, did so many prominent public figures spend so much of 2020 talking about Sweden?

Almost as soon as Boris Johnson announced a national lockdown in late March, British newspaper columnists and professional contrarians demanded that the prime minister adopt “the Swedish model” – and they were still urging the same in September. We now know with certainty what public health experts have long predicted: a light-touch coronavirus approach does not work. Sweden has recorded far higher death rates than its Nordic neighbours, while suffering a similar economic hit. Even the country’s king thinks it has “failed”.

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