Sweden’s COVID-19 death toll has surpassed neighboring countries. Now the country is investigating

July 1, 2020, 10:35 AM UTC

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Sweden’s government has initiated a commission to investigate its controversial approach to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sweden has taken a different path compared to most European countries by keeping much of society open and by recommending social distancing and self-isolation rather than imposing a blanket lockdown. That strategy has resulted in a much higher death rate than in neighboring countries, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The commission will evaluate the steps taken by the government and local authorities to limit the spread of the coronavirus, comparing them with what was done elsewhere.

The commission is due to deliver its final report in February 2022. Two preliminary reports will be submitted prior to that. The first, due on November 30, will look into the spread of the virus in health care centers and retirement homes. As of June 24, 3,612 people aged 70 or more living in care homes or receiving home care had died from Covid-19, according to data from the National Board of Health and Welfare. That represents 79% of the total deaths recorded up to that date.

Sweden’s top epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, has defended the country’s strategy, arguing that keeping much of society open while training people to observe distancing guidelines is the only realistic way to cope with the pandemic in the long run. Tegnell’s main concern is that strict lock-downs may temporarily contain the virus, but won’t prevent it from returning. He also says lockdowns come at an avoidable cost.

Read more: Swedish Covid Expert Says the World Still Doesn’t Understand

Still, Sweden’s relatively high infection rates mean its citizens are prevented from traveling to most countries.

The government’s handling of the pandemic has come under severe criticisms from the opposition, which has pushed for the commission to report back ahead of the next general election, due in September 2022.

The government on Tuesday appointed Mats Melin, a former president of Sweden’s Supreme Administrative Court, as head of the commission.