The Swedish approach to the covid-19 crisis stands out compared to the rest of the developed world in several ways. One of these is the extremely low percentage of the population wearing face masks.
This behavior has been consistently egged on by the Public Health Agency of Sweden (FHM), who throughout the pandemic have refused to recommend the use of face masks other than in medical care. This puts them at odds with the WHO and with the global scientific community at large. There is some opposition to FHM's policy also in Sweden, but I doubt that even the report last week from the Nobel Prize awarding Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (recommending the use of face masks) will have any effect on the FHM.
Due to the lack of transparent decision making at FHM, it remains unclear exactly why they take their unusual stance on face masks, although in my previous blog post at Statisticians React to the News I offered some speculations. When the Swedish news channel TV4 requested the scientific basis for their stance, the FHM offered a list of 37 scientific articles, and when TV4 went on to ask British expert Melinda Mills to go over it she found that the set of articles pointed overwhelmingly in the direction of face masks having a substantial effect. Astonishingly, in a recent press conference, Karin Tegmark Wisell at the FHM hinted at a fairness aspect: a face mask recommendation would induce costs that would be felt more strongly by low-income households.
Be all that as it may, the results of a Danish study (published in the Annals of Internal Medicine) on the effects of wearing a face mask were announced last week. Given the news coverage it received, it is likely to feed into and reinforce the negative attitude towards face masks that dominates in Sweden.