09 October 2020 Vol 370, Issue 6513
By Gretchen Vogel
Science09 Oct 2020 : 159-163
The country’s pandemic policies came at a high price—and created painful rifts in its scientific community.
Sweden’s government is known for keeping schools and stores open despite the COVID-19 pandemic. But there are other striking differences in the country’s approach: Authorities actively discourage people from wearing face masks, and there has been very limited testing or contact tracing. Within Sweden’s scientific and medical community, a debate about the strategy has simmered and frequently boiled over. A group of scientists known as “the 22” has called for tougher measures since April, when it published a blistering critique of the country’s public health authority. The group, which has grown to include 50 scientists, now calls itself the Vetenskapsforum COVID-19 (Science Forum COVID-19). It says the price for Sweden’s laissez-faire approach has been too high. (The country’s cumulative COVID-19 death rate so far rivals that of the United States.) And although infections waned over the summer, cases are rising again. But the group’s criticism has not been welcomed. Some critics have been publicly reprimanded, and some have decided to leave the country.