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Feature Coronavirus

Has Sweden’s controversial covid-19 strategy been successful?

BMJ 2020; 369 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2376 (Published 12 June 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;369:m2376

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A highly political article from a freelance journalist.

Dear Editor

I am writing to share my dismay at the editorial policy of BMJ after reading the article written by the freelance journalist Heba Habib on 12th June.

This article was published under the Coronovirus section of the BMJ's covid-19 hub, which claims to 'support professionals and researchers with practical guidance, online CPD courses, as well as the latest news, comment, and research from BMJ.' However, the article does not support any of these aims. It amounts to no more than a thinly veilled and political attack on the public health policy of the Swedish Public Health authority (Folkhölsomyndigheten) and Anders Tegnell in particular.

The inaccuracy and bias of this article is perhaps best evidenced by the rather glaring correction issued on 18th June 2020, just 6 days after it was published. Even this correction, which in its first instance had claimed that schools for under 16 years-olds had closed, was inaccurate. Swedish high schools did not close - lessons were conducted online but pupils were still able to collect their school lunches at school. The universities also remained open for teaching, although undergraduate courses were conducted online - some aspects of one-to-one teaching, e.g. where students conducted practical reseach projects, remained in effect.

Due to the tone and direction of the article, in my opinion that this was published with another agenda in mind. The fact that this article was written by Heba, who us a freelance journalist witout a declared scientific or medical qualification should be a warning sign for any editorial system. Heba has writen a number of such pro-lockdown articles in the past. No declaration about who paid for the article to be written was stated.

I think it is perhaps a sign of the times but it is deeply disturbing that the BMJ is willing to promote a feature article of this type.

Yours,

Jonathan D. Gilthope Ph.D.

Competing interests: No competing interests

04 July 2020
Jonathan D. Gilthorpe
Senior Lecturer
Umeå University
Umeå. Sweden