Lockdown-free Sweden has only 13 COVID-19 patients in intensive care and has averaged just one death per day over the past 10.
In Victoria, there have been 136 deaths during that period despite draconian social distancing restrictions.
The European country has become a testing ground for the concept of ‘herd immunity’ – where COVID-19 is allowed to spread through the nation in the hope its population will build up a resilience to the virus.
Daily case numbers in Sweden spiked at 1,698 in June – much higher than Australia’s worst day of 721 infections on July 30.
Sweden’s number of deaths from the coronavirus of 5,843 also dwarfs Australia’s 788 despite the Scandinavian nation – home to 10 million people – having less than half the population.
The country’s COVID-19 death rate is one of the highest relative to population size in the whole of Europe.
But Sweden’s virus control policies are steadily becoming more respected as its outbreak slows amid a resurgence in cases in other European countries like the UK, France, Spain and Italy.
Despite skepticism about whether Sweden’s policy of ‘herd immunity’ would be effective against the coronavirus, the country has in the past month been surpassed by Australia in terms of daily deaths from COVID-19
Two Swedish women walk together in Stockholm on August 21 – where businesses have largely operated as normal during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Australia as of Thursday has 23 patients in hospital intensive care units – 17 of whom are in Victoria – a slightly lower number per capita than Sweden.
Sweden though has accomplished that feat without having to shut down large parts of the economy like Australia has over the past six months.
Cases remain low in Sweden despite the border with neighbouring countries being reopened – although entry restrictions for Norwegians have been partially restored amid rising cases there.
Australia’s national border by comparison has remained closed to all non-residents since March – while Victorians are now banned from travelling to other parts of the country as other premiers close their borders to the COVID-19-besieged state.
Swedish authorities have refused to recommend the use of masks during the pandemic, a far cry from the mandatory face covering order Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews made more than a month ago to slow his state’s second wave of cases.
Swedes have instead been asked to follow hygiene recommendations, while schools, bars and restaurants have largely remained open throughout the crisis.
A face mask-clad woman passes a pandemic-related mural in the Melbourne suburb of Prahran on Thursday. Victorian health authorities has confirmed 136 deaths in the past 10 days – while Sweden has averaged just one life lost per day during that period
Restaurants, cafes and pubs in Australia meanwhile were ordered to close indefinitely by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on March 23, with those businesses in New South Wales and Victoria not reopening until June 1 – more than two months later.
Officials in the country’s capital Stockholm though had argued the long-term challenges posed by lockdown strongly outweighed the health risks.
They said their population would benefit more from going about their daily business and building an immunity to COVID-19.
Estimates from some scientists predicted the cavalier approach could lead to 180,000 people dying in Sweden – but the actual number of deaths is barely a fraction of that forecast.
Epidemiologist Johan Carlson, who is also director of the Swedish public health agency, told the Times: ‘Our strategy was consistent and sustainable.
Two young woman walk across an intersection in the Melbourne CBD on Thursday. Sweden’s unenforced mask recommendations are a far cry from the Victorian capital’s Stage Four restrictions
‘We probably have a lower risk of [the virus] spreading than other countries.’
But a former University of Queensland public health researcher and epidemiologist who now lives in Sydney has labelled the Swedish strategy a failure.
David Steadson, who has caught the virus himself, said the country’s adherence to ‘herd immunity’ at the beginning of the pandemic was foolish given how little was known at that point about the virus.
‘Allowing a deadly virus to just spread in the hope of eventual “herd immunity” made no sense to me scientifically, given our then limited knowledge, and it absolutely made no sense to my ethically,’ he told news.com.au.
Anders Tegnell, the brains behind Sweden’s coronavirus strategy, is considered controversial by many of his academic peers in Europe but is regarded as a hero in Sweden
He said the fact there were still 1,000 to 2,000 new cases every week in Sweden was worrying and that the figures would likely get worse as Europe moves towards winter.
‘The numbers have started to trend up again, and it’s my expectation they will continue to move up as we move in to autumn and winter,’ he said. ‘The pandemic is not even close to over in Sweden.’
The editor-in-chief of the Medical Journal of Australia Dr Nick Talley has meanwhile urged caution to those calling the Swedish model a success.
‘I am not convinced the Swedish model would be any more successful here in Australia, and arguably if compliance with voluntary recommendations was lower, the results would be worse – look at mask use in Sydney which is voluntary but has been strongly recommended,’ Dr Talley said.
Sarah Caisip (pictured), who lives in Canberra, was barred from attending her father’s funeral by Queensland health officials and instead told she could only view his body in private
As the European country enjoys life almost as normal, Australian political leaders were on Thursday engaged in a bitter war of words about the heartbreaking consequences of strict state border policies.
Health officials in Queensland sparked outrage after banning a 26-year-old woman in hotel quarantine from attending her father’s funeral in Brisbane and only granting her a private viewing of his body.
Sarah Caisip, who lives in coronavirus-free Canberra, applied for an exemption last month to visit her sick father Bernard Prendergast in Brisbane – but it took 20 days to get approved and he died of liver cancer two days before her flight.
Tom Hanks pictured with his wife Rita Wilson. The A-list actor and his film crew have been allowed to isolate in a luxury Gold Coast hotel this week
Ms Caisip, who is six days into her hotel quarantine stint in Brisbane, was banned from attending her father’s funeral on Thursday because officials believe she is a COVID-19 risk even though the ACT has had no cases for 60 days.
Up to 100 family and friends were allowed to attend the 2pm service in Mount Gravatt but instead of standing alongside them to farewell her father, Ms Caisip was only granted a private viewing of his body, surrounded by guards and forbidden from seeing her shattered mother and 11-year-old sister.
The gut-wrenching scenes came after Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who lost his own father in January, called Ms Palaszczuk and asked her to let Ms Caisip attend the funeral. He choked back tears as he described the case as ‘heartbreaking’.
The Queensland premier refused and then sensationally accused Mr Morrison of bullying and intimidating her. Ms Caisip said Ms Palaszczuk was ‘destroying my life’ and that she would never forgive her.
State Opposition leader Deb Frecklington, who also campaigned to let Ms Caisip go to the funeral, said she was ‘disgusted’ by the decision.
Ms Caisip (in yellow) was allowed to have a private viewing of her father’s body, dressed in PPE and with security guards minding her. She was not allowed to greet her family
Distraught: The 26-year-old was devastated that Premier Palaszczuk denied her the chance to say goodbye to her father
Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young said on Thursday afternoon: ‘We know that funerals are very, very high risk, for transmission of the virus.’ Pictured: Ms Caisip attending a viewing of her father’s body
Ms Caisip (pictured) was surrounded by security guards after she was escorted from hotel quarantine to view her father’s body
Ms Caisip was granted a private viewing of her father’s body, surrounded by security guards and without being allowed to see her mother and 11-year-old sister (both pictured)
Ms Caisip’s mother (second left) and sister (left) attended the funeral without her there as she was banned from mingling with her family
Sarah Caisip is pictured with her father Bernard Prendergast, 11-year-old sister Isobel Prendergast and mother Myrna Prendergast
Ms Caisip (pictured in the car on the way to a private viewing of her father’s body) said Premier Palaszczuk has ‘destroyed my life’
Mourners are seen at the funeral service for Bernard Prendergast in Brisbane on Thursday after Ms Caisip was not allowed to attend
Ms Frecklington said on Thursday: ‘I’m absolutely disgusted that the Annastacia Palaszczuk and the Labor government has denied this young woman an exemption. This story is really hard to listen to.’
Queensland’s borders are closed to Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT. Premier Palaszczuk faces an election next month and the tough borders are popular with most Queenslanders.
The state’s chief health officer Jeannette Young, who is in charge of granting exemptions, said on Thursday afternoon that she is ‘very risk averse’.
‘We know that funerals are very, very high risk for transmission of the virus. The last thing I would want to happen is to have an outbreak at a funeral,’ she said.
Dr Young said Ms Caisip’s application for an exemption took 20 days because there are thousands submitted every day.
She said Canberra is declared a hotspot because ‘it is in the middle of New South Wales, we know there are cases around them.’
Premier Palaszczuk has come under fire for inconsistency on border rules after letting actors including Tom Hanks as well as hundreds of AFL players, WAGs and staff enter Queensland via special luxury quarantine while keeping ordinary families apart.
Hanks, who caught the virus in Australia in March, is undergoing quarantine in an undisclosed location set up by the film industry after returning to Queensland from the US to continue filming Baz Lurhmann’s Elvis Presley biopic.
Dr Young today admitted the government’s border policy was influenced by money.
‘I have given exemptions for people in entertainment and film because that is bringing a lot of money into this state,’ she said.
Queensland has been rocked by dozens of heartbreaking cases of families being torn apart and lives being shattered by the border closure.
One 60-year-woman was forced to quarantine in a hotel after brain surgery in Sydney and a mother lost her unborn twin after she was flown 700km to Sydney for surgery because an exemption allowing her into Queensland took too long.
The prime minister has been trying to persuade Ms Palaszczuk – and other premiers – to relax their tough border controls, but under Australia’s federal system he cannot overrule state governments.
In a radio interview with broadcaster Ray Hadley on Thursday morning, an emotional Mr Morrison revealed he asked the premier to show some compassion and let Ms Caisip go to the funeral.
‘It’s not about borders, it’s not about federation, it’s not about elections,’ he told radio 2GB while holding back tears.
‘The only thing that matters today is that Sarah can be with her family to mourn the passing of her father Bernard. This is a heartbreaking case.’
Mr Morrison said he appealed to the premier to change her mind. ‘Surely in the midst of all of this heartache, and everything that everyone is going through, surely just this once it can be done,’ he said.
‘I just hope they change their mind and let Sarah go to the funeral.’
Ms Caisip was banned from going to the funeral (pictured) because she was not allowed to leave hotel quarantine
Ms Caisip wrote a furious letter to the Queensland premier accusing her of ruining her life. Pictured: The funeral
Mourners arrived for the funeral which Ms Caisip was banned from on Thursday afternoon
Australian state border restrictions
Victoria: Completely open, but other states are banning residents from going there
NSW: Border with Victoria is closed but others are open without restriction
Queensland: Open to everywhere but Victoria, NSW, and the ACT
Northern Territory: Open to everywhere but Victoria and Sydney, which must do hotel quarantine
South Australia: Closed to Victoria, NSW arrivals must self-isolate, rest are open
Tasmania: Closed to Victoria, everywhere else must do hotel quarantine
Western Australia: Closed to everywhere without an exemption
Mr Morrison seemed close to tears when he spoke about his own experience of loss.
‘Sadly she wasn’t able to see her father before he passed. All of us who have been through that process know how important that is. It’s still fresh in my mind,’ he said.
‘It was Father’s Day on the weekend and I’m just thinking if Sarah had to go through that day in a hotel in isolation and there she is today.’
The prime minister said: ‘I have done all I can.
‘There have been discussions with our chief medical officer and raising that with them and their health ministers.’
Mr Morrison said he has ‘these types of conversations with premiers on a range of issues all the time’.
‘I don’t seek to make them public but I rang the premier this morning and I hope she will reconsider,’ he said.
In the Queensland parliament on Thursday, Ms Palaszczuk accused the prime minister of ‘bullying’ her.
She said: ‘I won’t be bullied nor will I be intimidated by the prime minister of this country who contacted me this morning, and who I made very clear to the fact, that this is not my decision.
‘I passed this onto the chief health officer, and it is the chief health officer’s decision to make.’
Mr Morrison strongly rejected any accusation of bullying and said he just wanted Ms Caisip with be reunited with her sister and mother.
The prime minister has also spoken to Ms Caisip to offer her support and encouragement.
The 26-year-old earlier told 4BC Radio that she had planned to visit her dad for a father’s day surprise but the exemption took 20 days to get approved.
‘By the time they got back to me for the approval, dad had already passed away,’ she said.
‘I asked for an exemption just for a couple of hours to go to the funeral, I wasn’t asking them to leave quarantine after that altogether.
‘They said I shouldn’t even be in Queensland because the exemption for me to come to Queensland was to say goodbye to my dying father, not to go to the funeral.’
Ms Caisip said she has spoken to six health officials and not one has shown her any empathy.
‘Each and every single one of them did not help me nor show any compassion with my situation. They all just sounded like a robot,’ she wrote on Facebook.
‘Am I going to the viewing of the body and or the funeral? No because my exemption to attend either was declined by Qld Health.’
In an open letter to the Queensland premier, Ms Caisip wrote: ‘My dad is dead and you made me fight to see him, but it was too late and now you won’t let me go to his funeral or see my devastated 11-year-old sister.
‘You won’t listen and your government is destroying my life.
‘Now you are preventing me from going to view his body, which is a very important tradition for me, and also preventing me from going to his funeral this Thursday, even though I am in Brisbane in hotel quarantine and only a few kilometres away.
‘I came from virus-free Canberra, so the fact that I’m even in quarantine is beyond belief but the fact that I am being denied my basic human rights to care for my grief-stricken mother and little 11-year-old sister enrages, disgusts and devastates me at the same time.
‘My little sister is now without my support and I will never forgive you’.
Scott Morrison (pictured with wife Jenny) has asked Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to let a grieving daughter attend her father’s funeral
The Queensland premier has come under fire from federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg and other government MPs for keeping the border closed to parts of New South Wales and the ACT that have no community transmission of coronavirus.
Ms Palaszczuk has adopted nationalist rhetoric, pitting her state against the rest of Australia and even declaring that Queensland hospitals are ‘for our people’.
Ten days after that comment, a mother from Ballina, near the Queensland border, lost her unborn twin after she was flown 700km to Sydney for surgery because an exemption allowing her into Queensland took too long.
Then on Wednesday last week, the premier let hundreds of AFL players, WAGs and officials waltz into Queensland after clapping and wooping when Brisbane was handed the AFL grand final scheduled for 24 October.
Queensland grandmother Jayne Brown, 60, who was made to do hotel quarantine in in Brisbane following brain surgery, said the unfairness was ‘mind-blowing’.
The state’s chief health officer Jeanette Young has said a state would need to have 28 days with no community transmission before residents are allowed in to Queensland.
Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said it was a ‘very, very high benchmark to set’.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said: ‘I don’t know if we’ll ever get to that number. They’re putting on a pretty big ask during a pandemic.’
Last week Mr Frydenberg slammed Ms Palaszczuk’s decision to allow the families of AFL players into the state.
‘I think the Queensland Premier has got some questions to answer here,’ he told A Current Affair.
‘How can it be okay for people to go up to prepare for a footy game, and its not okay to go to hospital for treatment?’
How Scott Morrison could stop you from having to pay BILLIONS to prop up Dan Andrews’ bungled lockdown – thanks to a little-known political loophole
Australians could be spared from having to bail out Victoria financially if its lockdowns continue thanks to a little known tax rule.
Victoria, Australia’s second biggest state by population, receives $17.7billion a year from the Commonwealth’s GST collections, which is paid for by ordinary people across the country.
That equates to about a quarter of the $69billion raised annually from the ten per cent Goods and Services Tax – added to shopping bills.
The Institute of Public Affairs, a free market think tank, calculated the Stage Four lockdowns in Melbourne were costing the Victorian economy $3.17billion a week.
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Australians could be spared from having to bail out Victoria financially if its lockdowns continue thanks to a little known old tax rule. Victoria, Australia’s second biggest state by population, receives $17.7billion a year from the Commonwealth’s GST collections
The IPA estimated 696,000 Victorian jobs would be lost between March and November.
What Victoria receives from YOUR GST
Victoria has allocated $17.7billion from the Commonwealth Grants Commission in 2019
That equated to 25.7 per cent of the $69billion distributed to the states and territories from GST revenue
Victoria received 98.3 cents for every dollar of the GST collected in the state compared with 87 cents for New South Wales and 51.8 cents for Western Australia
Source: Commonwealth Grants Commission 2019 report
Victoria’s Labor Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday declared the lockdowns would not be eased until the state recorded fewer than five new daily cases on average by late October.
With New South Wales and Queensland even failing to reach that benchmark, the IPA’s director of research Daniel Wild wants the federal government to withhold GST funds from Victoria until it scrapped its economically-destructive lockdown.
‘All GST payments and grants from the Commonwealth to Victoria should be frozen until the lockdowns in Victoria are lifted,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘The rest of Australia should not pay for the catastrophic ineptitude of Daniel Andrews.’
Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance policy director Emilie Dye said the rest of Australia shouldn’t be paying for Victoria’s use of the police ‘to silence the people’.
‘The rest of Australia had no vote in electing the Andrews government; they shouldn’t have to foot the bill,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
‘The Victorian people are suffering. They are losing their businesses, their livelihoods, and their relationships.
‘It’s time the state government felt some of the pain suffered by its citizens.’