(Bloomberg) -- Sweden’s initial response to the Covid-19 pandemic was partly misguided and slow, according to the findings of a government-appointed commission.

However, the commission’s final report concluded that the country did relatively well during the pandemic. Sweden was one of the nations in Europe that had the lowest level of excess mortality in 2020 and 2021, despite a policy that shunned many of the harsh restrictions elsewhere on the continent. 

As death rates surged in early 2020, Sweden kept shops, restaurants and most schools open--a response that was blasted by critics at the time. The agency responsible for the strategy argued that all aspects of public health should be taken into account, including restricting people’s movements. It also said that a sustainable strategy should rely mainly on people’s willingness to adjust their lives voluntarily to help curb transmission.     

“Limiting measures essentially to recommendations, which the population are expected to follow voluntarily, is fundamentally a correct approach,” the commission said. However, “it must not stand in the way of more rigorous action that may be required in particularly critical phases.”

One such critical phase, according to the commission, was at the outbreak of the virus. At that time, “more intrusive measures would have bought time and enabled other steps to be considered.”

Over almost 800 pages, the document published Friday represents the commission’s final verdict on how Swedish authorities and society responded to the pandemic from early February 2020, when the first case in the country was identified.

The Nordic country however changed tack to introduce more significant restrictions, such as a ban on alcohol sales after 8 p.m. and capacity limits on stores, when it was hit by a second wave of infections in late 2021. 

The report also noted that Sweden’s health-care system largely managed to cope with the demands of the pandemic, to a large part thanks to the efforts of staff. However, “that adaptation came at the price of extreme stress on employees, as well as other health care being postponed or cancelled.” Hence, the commission concluded that Sweden “will have to live with the consequences of the pandemic for a long time to come.” 

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