As the number of infections spiralled out of control in Sweden, the discussion of introducing a lockdown has caught fire again in the Scandinavian country that steered clear of any shutdowns even throughout the most acute stages of the COVID-19 crisis.
Among other things, Fredrik Elgh, a professor of virology at Umeå University, has argued that a lockdown may prove necessary to contain the spread of the virus.
In response, Lars Jonung, a professor of economics at Lund University, contended that shutting down the country in a bid to stop the pandemic would turn the health crisis into an economic crisis.
According to him, the push for a lockdown is driven by the desire to show action and come off as efficient, rather than scientific research.
"My hope is that despite this new wave, politicians have learned that we cannot get out of the problems through lockdowns. Instead, we must accept that the economy should work as well as possible and it does so with a minimum of shutdowns", Jonung told Swedish national broadcaster SVT.
Jonung is a firm believer that powerful lockdowns are harmful for the economy, without demonstrably reducing the death toll. He argued that a comprehensive lockdown would hit welfare hard and undermine employment for the weakest sectors of society.
"We are still in the midst of the pandemic. The research is ongoing, but so far it has provided little support for lockdowns", Jonung said, referring to his own studies both for the European Commission and jointly with other researchers.
Jonung used France, Spain, and the UK as examples of how powerful shutdowns have failed to hold back the death toll.
"If everyone hides in the basement, we won't have much to come back to, it will be financial harakiri. We must keep the economy running to keep hospitals, healthcare, schools, and education running", Jonung emphasised.
Since the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sweden has polarised the world with its standalone approach, galvanising a heated debate on its accuracy. The Nordic country has steered clear of lockdowns, only introducing minor restrictions and issuing recommendations in hopes of citizens' compliance. While this approach has been lauded for upholding the economy and bolstering employment and the national currency, the krona, Sweden also has the highest mortality among its Nordic peers.
In recent weeks, Sweden has seen a spike in the number of new COVID-19 infections, breaking a new daily record at 6,743 on 13 November. According to fresh data, the coronavirus is now the third-biggest cause of death in Sweden after cardiovascular disease and cancer. Sweden has witnessed close to 192,500 COVID-19 cases and 6,225 deaths. Amid this negative trend, Sweden introduced its harshest restrictions to date.