Outside in Stockholm
Carl-Johan Karlsson

Sweden's lax regulation during the coronavirus crisis continues to perplex the outside world.

From Italy, one of the hardest hit countries and the first in Europe to impose strick lockdown measures, this is how the contrast with Sweden looks: "We're inside our homes and they're not. Our schools are closed and theirs stayed open. We can't go out and exercise, they can," begins an article in Milan-based daily Corriere della Sera. "Are these Swedes crazy? No, say the Swedes, you're the crazy ones."

Even reporters from its Nordic neighbors — where heavy restrictions were imposed last month — are perplexed, with a Danish journalist describing the Swedish strategy like "watching a horror movie," as the death toll in Sweden is four times higher than in Denmark, surpassing 1,300 on Friday. Meanwhile Norwegian and Finnish newspapers have reported on their respective populations' fears of being infected by Swedes crossing the border.

Domestically too, the health authorities are under fire, with 22 scientists from research institutes and universities urging the government, in an Op-Ed published by daily Dagens Nyheter, to shut all cafes and schools. Sweden is now the last holdout for what has been labeled the "herd-immunity" approach, but Swedish health authorities insist their strategy is not strictly herd immunity, reports daily Svenska Dagbladet, but to simply slow down the spread — just like everyone else. So what's the real difference?

Empty bar in Rome, Italy — Photo: Matteo Trevisan/ZUMA

In a nutshell, herd immunity is when a full population is protected from infection before all are immune. This occurs when those infected are surrounded by people who have achieved immunity either through vaccination or recovering from the virus. While the occasional contact is still susceptible and the odd transmission happens, it's not enough to sustain the disease.

Sweden would reach 60,000 deaths before herd immunity is achieved.

A pure herd-immunity approach would therefore be to let COVID-19 burn through the population until enough people have recovered and become immune. But the issue is the death toll. The "R0" of a disease is equal to the number of additional infections a typical case will cause before they recover — if R0 is greater than 1, the epidemic grows; if it's smaller than 1, it shrinks. Let's assume that RO is 3 (COVID-19 is estimated at R2-3) then the infection initially grows until two-thirds of the population become immune, meaning that two out of three infectious contacts will lead to no spread. However, if forecasting the lowest estimated fatality rate of COVID-19 — about 1% — then a country like Sweden, with 10 million inhabitants, would reach 60,000 deaths before herd immunity is achieved.

Swedish state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell reasons every country will eventually have to achieve herd-immunity to beat the virus, but the spread needs to be controlled so hospitals don't become overburdened and the most vulnerable don't get infected; and in that way herd-immunity can be achieved without massive loss of life. Tegnell says that Swedes are practicing social distancing measures just like every other population — the difference being that they come as recommendations rather than rules.


While there are encouraging signs of many countries now turning the corner on the most acute phase of the crisis, it's still to early to decide whether Sweden's will be a model for the future or the example to avoid. A key to determining that are two basic questions every government should be looking at: Will Sweden prove better equipped for a second wave of the virus? How will the socioeconomic impacts compare to those in the locked-down countries in the months and years to come?

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La Sagrada Familia Delayed Again — Blame COVID-19 This Time

Hopes were dashed by local officials to see the completion of the iconic Barcelona church in 2026, in time for the 100th anniversary of the death of its renowned architect Antoni Guadí.

Work on La Sagrada Familia has been delayed because of the pandemic

By most accounts, it's currently the longest-running construction project in the world. And now, the completion of work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882, is going to take even longer.

Barcelona-based daily El Periodico daily reports that work on the church, which began as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. But a press conference Tuesday, Sep. 21 confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin).

El Periódico - 09/22/2021

El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world.

One tower after the other… Slowly but surely, La Sagrada Familia has been growing bigger and higher before Barcelonians and visitors' eager eyes for nearly 140 years. However, all will have to be a bit more patient before they see the famous architectural project finally completed. During Tuesday's press conference, general director of the Construction Board of the Sagrada Familia, Xavier Martínez, and the architect director, Jordi Faulí, had some good and bad news to share.

As feared, La Sagrada Familia's completion date has been delayed. Because of the pandemic, the halt put on the works in early March when Spain went into a national lockdown. So the hopes are dashed of the 2026 inauguration in what would have been the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.

Although he excluded new predictions of completion until post-COVID normalcy is restored - no earlier than 2024 -, Martínez says: "Finishing in 2030, rather than being a realistic forecast, would be an illusion, starting the construction process will not be easy," reports La Vanguardia.

But what's a few more years when you already have waited 139, after all? However delayed, the construction will reach another milestone very soon with the completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years and the second tallest spire of the complex. It will be crowned by a 12-pointed star which will be illuminated on December 8, Immaculate Conception Day.

Next would be the completion of the Evangelist Lucas tower and eventually, the tower of Jesus Christ, the most prominent of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated 13.5 meters wide "great cross." It will be made of glass and porcelain stoneware to reflect daylight and will be illuminated at night and project rays of light.

La Sagrada Familia through the years

La Sagrada Familia, 1889 - wikipedia

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