Guess which developed country had the lowest excess mortality between 2020 and 2022. Go on, have a guess. That’s right. Sweden, which refused to close shops or schools or to impose a mask mandate, saw cumulative excess deaths rise by 6.8%, the lowest figure in the OECD. By way of comparison, the equivalent figures were 18% in Australia, 24.5% in the U.K., and 54.1% in the U.S.
At this stage, various authoritarians, hypochondriacs and mask fetishists trot out bizarre arguments about Sweden having a low population density, as if Swedes were evenly spaced across their birch forests rather than living mainly in cities comparable to ours. What is striking about this argument is not so much its dishonesty (in March 2020, lockdowners claimed that Sweden faced total catastrophe, not that it might end up with a slightly higher mortality rate than Finland ) as its desperation. Across the world, we are in denial. We simply can’t bring ourselves to admit that everything we went through — the disrupted education, the spike in mental health problems, the ruined careers, the debts — was for nothing. Like the countries that emerged maimed from World War One, we tell ourselves that the sacrifice must have had some purpose. Perhaps, now as then, decades will pass before we can bring ourselves to face the hideous truth.
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