There have been times during this pandemic that I’ve felt as if my memory is playing tricks on me. I’m sure I remember scientists telling us that a second wave was inevitable. I could have sworn I saw a graph at the press briefings showing a scary bell curve of infections in the spring and an even scarier one in the winter. I’m sure I heard experts explaining that the only way COVID-19 would disappear would be when herd immunity was achieved, either through natural antibodies or vaccination.
Official documents reassure me that I am not going mad. The minutes from a Sage meeting in March say: “Sage was unanimous that measures seeking to completely suppress the spread of Covid-19 will cause a second peak.” As far as I can tell, this is still their view. Suppressing a wintry virus during the sunniest spring on record could turn out to be no great achievement. The worst may be yet to come.
One country can look to the winter with less trepidation than most. Last week, a study suggested that 30 per cent of Swedes have built up immunity to the virus. It would help explain why Covid-19 has been fizzling out in Sweden. If a measure of herd immunity also helps them avoid the second wave, Sweden’s take-it-on-the-chin approach will be vindicated.
Not going into lockdown was described as “a mad experiment” by Marcus Carlsson of Lund University in March. Dr Cecilia Söderberg-Nauclér of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute accused the government of “leading us to catastrophe”, and predicted that the healthcare system would collapse unless a lockdown was introduced. Every model predicted an exponential rise in infections.
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