An article in The Australian newspaper titled "Coronavirus: Sweden ‘has beaten coronavirus with herd immunity’" makes the claim as per the title.

Evidence is mounting that Sweden has beaten the coronavirus with herd immunity rather than a lockdown, according to a renowned expert on the spread of disease.

Sweden’s infection rate has remained low and stable at a time when other European countries are facing a strong resurgence.

Is this correct?

  • 8
    I wish the "current events" reason to close applied not only to events that are currently under investigation by a court of law, but also to events relating to the current state of the pandemic. If we jump ahead to, say, September 2021, it would probably be trivial to determine whether the claim was true or false as of September 2020. But right now? Even your source quotes scientists who point out that it's too soon to tell. I don't see how this question can be answered at this point of time, not with the standards that skeptics.SE has for answers.
    – Schmuddi
    Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 11:26
  • 1
    "beaten" is a flexible word. dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8698925/… has a decent comparison of the present and past situation in Sweden, Norway and Denmark
    – Henry
    Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 11:57
  • 3
    @Schmuddi If you feel a close reason such as "current event" should apply to this question feel free to post a meta question suggesting it and lets get some discussion going on it. I can't say I personally disagree with you.
    – Jamiec
    Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 14:11
  • 2
    I also think the "current events" close reason is under utilized. I'd consider a vtc even if you aren't sure. That puts it in the queue for community moderation.
    – user11643
    Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 15:07
  • 1
    @BenBarden: The claim was made in a major national daily newspaper. It is reasonable to think that many people believe what they read there. Therefore it meets our notability requirements.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 6:35

3 Answers 3


Data do not support achieving herd immunity in Sweden (at least as of August, 2020).

One article cites a seroprevalence of 20% or less [1]. This is nowhere near estimates to achieve herd immunity based on the characteristics of SARS-CoV-2, which at minimum 50% (there is age contact group dependence). [2]

To hedge, it is possible that there is some yet-to-be-measured cellular immunity, but if antibodies are any indication, not yet.

[1]. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0141076820945282

[2]. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41577-020-00451-5

  • People might be immune because of T-cells even if they don't have antibodies.
    – Anders
    Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 15:24
  • @Anders. Agreed re: T-cells, that is what is referred to by cellular immunity.
    – Minnow
    Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 15:46
  • @Schmuddi Good point, updated to state minimum as suggested.
    – Minnow
    Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 15:50

Sweden just sped up the process of contamination by not doing a lock-down. Most countries were doing it to flatten the curve as mentioned in many news outlets, this is mostly done to avoid overload on the healthcare system and to keep it running as smooth as possible.

"It is clear that not only are the rates of viral infection, hospitalization and mortality [per million population] much higher than those seen in neighboring Scandinavian countries, but also that the time-course of the epidemic in Sweden is different, with continued persistence of higher infection and mortality well beyond the few critical weeks period seen in Denmark, Finland and Norway," said researcher Dr. David Goldsmith, a retired physician in London.

Experience suggests that severely infected COVID-19 patients acquire antibodies immediately and during early recovery, but antibodies are much less common in only mildly ill or asymptomatic patients. This means they are likely not immune, and can't prevent the spread of the virus, the study noted. This is central to the concept of herd immunity. (1)

Sweden doesn't seem to have reached the goal of herd immunity since most people don't actually develop antibodies after being infected. We can only be certain of the results in a few years from now.


  • 3
    Citations, please. You make several claims in your answer but substantiate none of them. Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 16:50
  • 2
    At bare minimum, you need to actually say where a given quote is from.
    – Ben Barden
    Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 18:05
  • Added some source Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 18:36
  • 1
    The full article that the news release is based on can be found here: journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0141076820945282 – note that the newest data available to the article is from July 22, which precedes the second wave seen in Denmark, Finland, and Norway.
    – Schmuddi
    Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 19:22

From Coronavirus Dashboard:

  Country Confirmed        Per     Deceased       Per
                       Million                Million
★ Denmark      23,323    4,023        640        110  
★ Norway       13,005    2,395        267         49  
★ Sweden       88,237    8,725      5,865        580  
★ USA       7,051,564   21,275    204,519        617
★ Australia    26,942    1,077        854         34

So, Sweden has done slightly better than the US, but 5-10 times worse than it's neighboring countries.

  • Though perhaps Sweden now seems to have confirmed cases / population similar to or lower than Norway or Denmark, and the Swedish rate is not rising much while the other two are.
    – Henry
    Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 13:46
  • Took the liberty of adding Australia to the table, since that's where the claim is from. Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 15:29
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    But this is exactly what you'd expect to see in a country that had a large number of infections in the beginning and then achieved herd immunity. It's also what you'd see in a country that had a large number of infections in the beginning and then did not achieve herd immunity. A snapshot of total case/death count at a single point in time in the middle of the pandemic cannot answer this question. Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 15:36
  • Good numbers to start with, but not tackling the claim at all. Please extend this with some notion of what herd immunity actually means, and that 0.8725% is nowhere near enough to achieve it...
    – DevSolar
    Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 16:03
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    Those figures do not address the question because they are totals over the entire course of the pandemic. If covid were 100% over in a certain country, then that country would have zero current cases, but may still have a large number of total cases from earlier in the pandemic. If you want to assess whether it is "beaten", you need to look at the current conditions and current trajectory. Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 11:08

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