One reason why the models failed is that they – just like most countries’ politicians – underestimated how millions of people spontaneously adapt to new circumstances. They only thought in terms of lockdowns vs business as usual, but failed to consider a third option: that people engage in social distancing voluntarily when they realise lives are at stake and when authorities recommend them to do so.
As countries plan how to leave lockdown, they can look at Sweden and ask: what happens if you don’t involve the police, if you don’t issue edicts about how many of your relatives or neighbours you can visit, and just ask people to be careful? Might that work? The Swedish experiment casts huge doubts on the models, and makes the case for trusting the public.