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Letters Aug. 2: Don't follow Sweden's COVID approach; the alarming ways people drive

Letter writers find much to fault about how Sweden has dealt with COVID-19 pandemic
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A member of staff collects a COVID-19 PCR test, at the COVID testing site of Svagertorp, Malmoe, Sweden, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. Johan Nilsson/TT via AP.

The Swedish model is one we should avoid

Re: “We could learn from Sweden, which got COVID right,” commentary, July 30.

I believe the Swedish model of pandemic mis-management is one that Canada should avoid like the plague.

Swedish researchers condemned their government’s pandemic response in a March 2022 Nature article. The findings include:

• “Scientific methodology was not followed by the major figures in the acting authorities — or the responsible politicians … resulting in arbitrary policy decisions.”

• “[People] were kept in ignorance of basic facts such as the airborne SARS-CoV-2 transmission, that asymptomatic individuals can be contagious and that face masks protect both the carrier and others.”

• “Many elderly people were administered morphine instead of oxygen despite available supplies, effectively ending their lives.”

• “…. [authorities] at least speculated on the use of children to acquire herd-immunity, while at the same time publicly claiming children played a negligible role in transmission and did not become ill.”

Swedes are still dying from COVID. Our World in Data shows Sweden’s daily new confirmed COVID-19 deaths per million people are higher than Canada’s through almost every wave, including this summer.

Canada shouldn’t embrace public health programs which actively accelerate deaths of clinically vulnerable populations, and increase risks of the younger workforce for post-COVID effects (one in five adults age 18-plus, per the May 27 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

I’ll mask to protect others, ventilate rooms I’m in, and keep up my immunizations. I’d also support a circuit-breaker if epidemiologically needed to break the transmission chain of a new pathogen.

Stephen Wellington,
MD, PhD, MHSc, FRCPC
Victoria

Sweden could learn humanity from Canada

Re: “We could learn from Sweden, which got COVID right,” commentary, July 30.

I may be “one of the most naive of readers” referred to in the commentary but I think it is fair to put actual COVID numbers beside some of his statements.

“Virtually no people are dying from COVID today in Sweden. For them COVID is finished.” Two weeks ago, Sweden had 74 deaths and 5,943 cases. By comparison, Canada had 28 deaths and 4,896 cases with four times the population.

“All-cause mortality in Sweden did not increase at all over the last 2 1/2 years.” In 2019 Sweden had 88,766 deaths. In 2020 these increased to 98,124 and 2021 to 91,958. These increased deaths closely matched their COVID deaths.

Overall Sweden has reported 1,889 COVID deaths per million people. Canada has reported 1,134 deaths per million people. This means Sweden’s COVID strategy allowed 7,550 extra Swedish deaths compared to Canada.

The commentary minimized the importance of those deaths because they were “mostly the frail and elderly with severe co-morbid conditions.”

Frankly I am glad that Canadians believe that all lives are valuable and worth saving. I think Sweden could learn some humanity from Canada.

Steve Dove, BSc (Pharm)
Victoria

Case numbers tell a different story

Re: “We could learn from Sweden, which got COVID right,” commentary, July 30.

Sweden’s lax response to the pandemic was driven by a quest for the illusive herd immunity. Not only did the country not achieve this, but they ended up having more cases than neighbouring Finland.

While the writer insists COVID is over for Sweden, the World Health Organization reported 1,144 new cases in the last 24 hours. Is this “getting it right?”

Vicki Grover
Cobble Hill

Crucial information disregarded in analysis

Re: “We could learn from Sweden, which got COVID right,” commentary, July 30.

Figures from statista.com indicate that had we followed Sweden’s path, we could have expected an additional 28,500 deaths of fellow Canadians.

On the economic front the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s June economic snapshot for Canada predicts 3.8 per cent growth in 2022 and 2.6 per cent growth in 2023.

The same snapshot for Sweden predicts growth of 2.2 per cent in 2022 and one per cent in 2023.

These facts beggar the conclusions reached by the writer.

It was further disturbing to read that all those early extra Swedish deaths were just the elderly and frail and those with co-morbidities.

Is the inference that all other countries don’t have similar populations or that the extra deaths among such populations are somehow less tragic.

From this vantage point it seems the writer is over-reaching, if not just wrong, in his very broad conclusion, while disregarding crucial data reflecting COVID death rates and current economic conditions in reaching that conclusion.

Terry Part
Victoria

Sweden’s death rate worse than neighbours

Re: “We could learn from Sweden, which got COVID right,” commentary, July 30.

The commentary claims that Sweden got COVID right, while the rest of the world got it wrong.

Expert sources disagree. A recent article in Nature, the world’s premier science journal, “Evaluation of science advice during the COVID pandemic in Sweden,” looks at Sweden’s performance and concludes it did pretty badly.

The commentary noted that Sweden did better than Argentina – but Sweden is a first-world country with a first-class health-care system. Of course it will do better than Argentina.

How did it do compared with its Scandinavian neighbours Denmark and Norway, which took more thorough precautions to prevent COVID deaths? Here are the numbers as of April 22:

Sweden: 1,839 deaths per million

Norway: 525 deaths per million

Denmark: 1,042 deaths per million

So Sweden did about twice as badly as Denmark and more than three times as badly as Norway. Around 18,000 Swedes died. If Sweden had followed the same precautions as Norway, 12,000 of those Swedes would still be alive.

How about Canada? Canada’s death rate was 1,019 deaths per million, about the same as Denmark, and almost twice as good as Sweden.

Why should Canada follow the example of a country with a track record so much worse than our own?

John Jones
Victoria

Many differences between Canada, Sweden

Re: “We could learn from Sweden, which got COVID right,” commentary, July 30.

I looked at the World Heath Organization statistics which showed Sweden had a gradual increase in both cases and deaths from March 2020 to April 2022 and then a levelling off to this week.

Although the government took a more or less hands-off approach, the population as a whole had a vaccination rate of 216.63 per 100 population which was higher than either Canada or the U.S.

They also have a small, more scattered population and limited cultural diversity and about 50 per cent of Swedish citizens live alone.

The right to housing is protected by the constitution and by law, there is a housing allowance for lower income renters, and youth 18 to 28 receive an extra allowance.

Sweden has universal health care system which includes dental care to age 23, when they join the regular dental care subsidy system. They also have a strong employment system where most business is privately owned and 80 per cent of employers have wage and benefit agreements with their employees.

Four weeks of vacation is required, unemployment insurance is set at 80 per cent of regular wages and old age pension benefits equal nearly 100 per cent of previous income. Family support and early childhood care and parental leave are generous.

Educational supports , including lower costs for medical school and other professional training also help form a society which likely helps maintain certain cultural norm where personal choice and responsibility are possible.

There are lots of reasons why this model would be difficult to transfer to North America, but one big one would be Sweden’s income tax rate which had been more than 50 per cent for the past 50 years.

We can hardly agree on a new fire hall or increase to the minimum wage, never mind such a broad system of family and individual supports.

Lynn Curtis
Duncan

Try telling the 28,000 that Sweden is better

Re: “We could learn from Sweden, which got COVID right,” commentary, July 30.

The commentary makes some questionable claims about the efficacy of Sweden’s COVID-19 response.

Comparing Canada to Sweden, we have a population of around 37 million with just under 43,000 COVID deaths while Sweden’s population is just over 10 million and they suffered over 19,000 deaths.

That means Canada had a lower per capita death rate by more than 60 per cent. If Canadians had died at the Swedish rate we would have lost an additional 28,000 Canadian lives.

It should also be noted that as the Swedish death toll spiked, Sweden did abandon the “do nothing” approach and limited gathering sizes, limited opening hours, adopting mask rules etc.

Suggesting the Swedish approach is better would probably be a hard sell to the 28,000 Canadians who would have died if we had followed Sweden’s example.

S.I. Petersen
Nanaimo

A reminder: Pull over, let others pass

I almost broke the law July 30 when I was prepared to pass a very slow-moving vehicle on Highway 14. I would have if a car hadn’t been approaching.

Welcome to Sooke-area roads in the summer, when clueless or lost or stupid tourists make life stressful for residents. It wasn’t the first time such a vehicle raised my ire.

In this case, the half-ton truck, with out-of-province plates, carrying two kayaks, was travelling at 40 km/h in a 60 km/h zone, often slowing down to 30 km/h. I understand what it’s like to be a tourist and not know the roads, but come on. There were at least three spots where the driver could have safely pulled over so drivers doing the speed limit could continue.

By the time I turned onto my road, there were about eight other vehicles in the infuriating parade.

It’s time for the police to ticket vehicles that aren’t doing the speed limit. It’s time for the appropriate government bodies to install signs that tell slow drivers to pull over. It’s time for drivers to pay attention and move aside when they are impeding traffic.

I understand why road rage and risky driving occur.

Shannon Moneo
Sooke

Most drivers on Cook don’t yield to others

The Cook Street roundabout is too small to operate as it should. Most drivers heading north or south on Cook seem to assume that they have the right-of-way regardless of traffic waiting to enter from Southgate and large trucks, buses or fire engines cannot circumnavigate the roundabout without climbing the concrete in the centre.

The crosswalk at the north end of the roundabout is ill-placed and dangerous. It is difficult to watch for pedestrians when one is scanning the traffic flows in and around the roundabout.

Alanna Wrean
Victoria

Camping in the parks again, no enforcement

I recently notified Victoria Bylaw Services that contrary to the Supreme Court of B.C. ruling and Victoria council directives, camping was yet again occurring in Beacon Hill Park and Irving Park, James Bay.

I was told that they were too busy to deal with the issue. When did law enforcement become discretionary in Victoria?

Alan Humphries
Victoria

Let’s work together on reconciliation

Re: “More than an apology needed from Pope, says Nuu-chah-nulth leader,” July 30.

Indigenous people asked Pope Francis to come to Canada and apologize for taking their children from their families where many were physically and sexually abused.

The Pope did that. But now the Nuu-chah-nulth leader says it is not enough and that she wasn’t that interested in an apology.

I understand the need to rescind the Doctrine of Discovery but let’s give credit where credit is due. The aging Pope made a huge trip because he said he would — even though he was injured and is likely about to retire.

The time now is to reconcile.

This will need a coming together of Indigenous and all Canadians if it is going to work.

Eric Jones
Victoria

Fossil fuels have their advantages

In this opinion section I have never read a letter from the anti-oil crowd that addresses either of these two facts.

First, gasoline is about 100 times as energy dense as a lithium-ion battery. A Hummer battery is more than 2,900 pounds! Almost the weight of a Honda Civic car.

Also, gasoline, diesel and propane are easily portable.

A gallon of any could be taken to that remote camp/work site to; run the genset, air compressor, medical equipment, tools, communications, HVAC and oh yeah all those rechargeable batteries that power some of the above.

Guess what: locomotives take 3000 horsepower (we didn’t “metric” ulate) diesels to power the generators that move the mile-long train.

Grant Maxwell
Nanaimo

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