By Marisol Aliaga, chief editor of Magazin Latino, Sweden.
[This is a machine-translation from the original text published in Spanish]
In an interview with Magazin Latino, epidemiology expert Marcello Ferrada de Noli affirms that “the herd immunity strategy managed by the Swedish authorities has caused five times more deaths in Sweden than in all neighboring countries counted together.” And that this misfortune could have been avoided.
Professor emeritus Marcello Ferrada de Noli refers here to the declarations of the architects of the Swedish strategy against the coronavirus, on whether the high mortality rate in Sweden is due to a “coincidence” and that “Sweden was unlucky”… / Marisol Aliaga.
Six months after this cataclysm that came to place our lives in the worst dystopian novel; When the debate about whether the Swedish strategy is the correct one, and thinking about an uncertain autumn, I decide to contact Professor Ferrada de Noli. After all, we have some experiences in common, and this gives me confidence: he is an expert in epidemiology, he has lived in Sweden for many years and in June of this year he left for the epicenter of the pandemic, to Italy, to the province of Bergamo. He wanted to be “where the chips are down” [“donde las papas queman“], and there he is now, fighting the coronavirus, which causes covid-19.
He speaks seven languages and appears to have lived seven lives. He was born in the Atacama Valley, in Copiapó, in the north of Chile. His grandfather, Vittorio de Noli, was a Genoese wine producer, who left for South America in search of sunshine for his Italian wines.
A childhood friend of Miguel Enríquez, he founded the MIR together with “other dreamers of a better world” on August 14, 1965. Unlike other young people who ended up in sinister jails on September 11, 1973, Marcello Ferrada already had been through it on previous occasions. For example, in 1969, in Concepción, he ended up in prison when the Christian Democratic government of Frei included him in the list of the thirteen wanted MIR leaders, when the organization was accused of subversive activities. After the coup, he was imprisoned in the Concepción Stadium and in the Quiriquina Island, until he was expelled from the country. In 1998, when Pinochet was in London, he filed legal complaints against him, from Sweden and Norway.
Already at the age of 19 he published his first book, which was followed by about twenty more, and he still has others to publish. The books can be downloaded for free, the royalty money does not interest him. He is an expert in epidemiology and has a Ph.D. in psychiatry from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, with a postdoc from Harvard Medical School. In his spare time he paints pictures that adorn his home in Bergamo, where he currently resides.
But regardless of academic titles and Italian family names of noble lineage, this versatile professor is unconventional, and he is motivated by two things: truth and justice. Proof of this is that in this interview with Magazín Latino “he does not leave a puppet with a head”.
“My position on the concept of consequence is that it is primarily in the domain of the ethical, before the political. It means that if one has embraced with an oath of honor with himself and in front of his peers – and as a witness having the conscience of so many sacrifices, so much blood shed by those who have led that fight for the same end, one must pay tribute to that promise in everyday life, until death ”, he writes in one of his books published in Libertarian Books Sweden. (Note: what is marked in red is a link).
True to this promise, he has repeatedly stood up to the establishment, regardless of the consequences. In 2017, the Swedish media declared him persona non grata, for having revealed the United States’ assembly in the case of the White Helmets, or “white helmets”. He was later shown to be correct, when statements by the US and French defense ministers admitted, in February 2018, not having “absolute evidence” about the gas attacks. But the Scandinavian press was no longer interested in that.
He has also been a fervent supporter of Julian Assange, whom the Swedish press first raised to the skies and later called a “coward” and a “rapist.” An investigation that lasted years and was finally shelved by Sweden, without giving further explanations.
Here, con Julian Assange, and Human Rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson, in London.
Professor Ferrada has followed the development of the covid-19 pandemic in Sweden with great interest. On April 6, he had referred to the Swedish strategy as “dangerous” in an interview on Russian television, and in May he published a text on RT in which he denounced what was happening in the country, in nursing homes.
Here, his answers to my questions:
Marcello, to begin with, it is not clear to me what your nationality is. Are you Italian, Chilean or Swedish, and do you speak these three languages?
– I have a Swedish passport, which in Sweden does not automatically mean being considered by everyone as “having Swedish nationality”, which would be legal. I use it very little because I have the Italian permanent resident document that serves as a passport here in Europe. I have not had Chilean nationality since I lost it in 1974, during the Pinochet dictatorship and was expelled into exile, then I obtained the passport of the Geneva Convention. About those languages, I do speak them. I learned them with the family, or in a school. Some others living in exile or because of professional work in different countries. But I am not fond of languages and I never liked grammar rules or any of those passions styled by formalistic bureaucrats. Also, when I don’t remember words well, then I love to create those of my own, so as not to slow down the story. And those have remained in my books and I am not going to change them.
What countries have you lived in and where do you feel most comfortable?
– I have lived and worked professionally in Chile, the United States, England, Italy, Mexico, Norway and Sweden, but due to epidemiology tasks I had also to stay in other places, such as Thailand, for the Tsunami, in Hong- Kong, for SARS, or in Cameroun, for epidemiology training of doctors. Among the countries I have lived, I definitely prefer Italy, where I have come since I was twelve years old. And not only because it is the country of my ancestors, with whose descendants I have had more contact since I was a child, it is primarily a people, a culture, a civility, an art, a heart, a humanity and a lifestyle so different from, for example, Sweden.
You have several academic degrees, how many? And what discipline have you dedicated yourself to the most? Honestly, I find it difficult to find the relationship between Psychiatry and Epidemiology …
– The relationship between Psychiatry and Epidemiology is amalgamated by Philosophy, which is my original and preferred discipline. There one finds the why, what is the priority to investigate in social medicine based on our ethical and ideological conceptions.The important thing for me has been to choose only research topics that shed light on the situation of the problematic health of the poor and oppressed, as is the case with vast sections of immigrants in Sweden and other disadvantaged groups. And a neglected area in Sweden had been psychiatric epidemiology in those groups. I have done a series of research on this, but I have also published books on Geopolitics and Human Rights.
– About the academic degrees in total I have five: two in Philosophy, one in Humanities, two in Medicine in Psychiatry. In addition to the post-doctorate in social medicine, at Harvard Medical School, which I did on the subject of epidemiology. In Sweden I followed three PhD course programs, of which I completed two, Applied Psychology at Lund University, and Psychiatry at Karolinska Institute. Philosophy at the University of Stockholm was the first, but I left it until the middle, because my stay there made it unbearable.
Clipping from the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, reporting when Professor Ferrada de Noli presented a legal accusation against Pinochet
When the pandemic broke out, you were here in Stockholm, but in June you left for Italy to contribute with your knowledge as emeritus professor of Epidemiology “where potatoes burn”, in a Bergamo commune. That is to say, in the middle of a pandemic you have to cross the borders of four European countries, wasn’t it easier to stay and work in Sweden?
– In Sweden, critical opinions from scientific epidemiology have no place in the experiment of the Public Health Agency that protects the government and the press docile to them. An example is that, despite being the author of the first critical analyzes published in international media, and even appearing in Google News, etc., their content has been totally silenced in Sweden. In Expressen 4/15 2020 for example, the cultural editor criticizes the unfounded accusation that my critical analyzes serve “Putin’s propaganda” against Sweden, but is careful not to publish the link to such an article, whose factual content obviously denies slander. Another example, the political editor of Aftonbladet, Anders Lindberg, publishes on Twitter that my critical articles on the strategy against the crown in Sweden should not be read since they are written by me, a person who has been interviewed on Russian TV, according to Lindberg, denying the existence of gas attacks in Syria. Which on the one hand is a falsehood, as I refuted it in RT, and on the other it has nothing to do with the content of my epidemiological criticism of Anders Tegnell’s covid-19 strategy. In Sweden, professors or academics who have a critical approach are accused of saboteurs, such as the case against Professor Cecilia Naucler.
– So I accepted without hesitation an invitation to collaborate in the epidemiological evaluation of the covid-19 serological test project in San Giovanni Bianco, in Bergamo. I traveled by car from Sweden, and was able to cross the borders with the help of a pass that was sent to me from Italy explaining my mission. By the way, I do this advisory or consultation work on a completely voluntary basis, without fees, and I even paid for the trip. I’m just telling you this to contrast with “the Swedish model” of experts hired by Tegnell at the FHM. Among these is his former boss Giesecke (who in turn had hired Tegnell when he had been director of the FHM), who now in his turn is under a contract signed by Tegnell, which would be awarding him a million crowns in one year. for functions, apparently, of public relations. I beg you to ratify that in the press there. I personally consider it an unforgivable scandal, and on the precise verge of corruption. [Ratified. Johan Giesecke posed as an “independent advisor”, under the circumstances that he was hired by Anders Tegnell, and billed for each media appearance].
A short time ago the general director of the FHM, Johan Carlson, said that “the great spread of the crown in Sweden was due to a ‘chance’ and that, therefore, we cannot compare ourselves with the Nordic countries”. What do you think of these statements?
– In all the years that I have been interviewed, I think that I have never answered ad-hominem, and I have always stayed on the factual issue. This time I’ll make the exception that proves the rule. I’ll answer you about the ridiculous “chance” Carlson adduced later. But let me tell you first, and I’ll tell you straight, that I regard the top leadership of the Swedish Public Health Agency (FHM) as Sigmund Freud’s paradise for psychopathological research. And I consider both its CEO Johan Carlson and its state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell a pair of proven incompetent professionals, judging by the bulky fatalities resulting from their recalcitrantly ill-fated strategy. I do not know them personally, but studying the behavior in their interviews, and fundamentally by the answers they give, and which are of a supine incoherence, well, what can I tell you. Apparently, what they show in their responses and reactions, are either serious problems that they may not even realize, or they correspond to a premeditated cynicism to deceive Swedish opinion and its self-declared “naive” politicians both in government. or opposition. “Vi har varit näiva” (we have been naive), these politicians repeat from time to time.
– The behavior I refer to above does not have a psychological derivation in the first instance, but an ethical and even legal reference. This from international perspectives, both criminal law and human rights.
Sweden has been the Nordic country hardest hit by the covid-19 pandemic. Authorities here decided to go their own way, opting for herd immunity without heeding WHO’s warnings that this is a cruel strategy that would claim many dead. Despite this, 60% of the Swedish population supports the management of the pandemic, why?
– Here’s the reality: Tegnell & Co.’s “herd immunity” strategy has caused five times more deaths in Sweden than in all neighboring countries counted combined. Despite all the hype from Tegnell’s previous press conferences, in which the favorite dish on his menu was to present the dramatic pandemic situation in the US, today Sweden has surpassed the United States in deaths per capita caused by covid-19. And Sweden also ranks fifth in the world in deaths per capita, counted 210 countries and territories hit by the pandemic.
– The New York Times, referring to the ban on entry to Norway, Denmark and Finland imposed against the Swedes says it all in the headline of a recent article: “Sweden’s New Status: Pariah State.”–
– The main characteristic of this [Swedish] strategy is that it was designed as an instrument for the protection and boost of the capitalist and industrial potential of Sweden, with the prospect of a future better position in the international competitive market. The idea was that while the “lockdown” imposed in other countries was going to drastically affect those economies, Sweden was instead to result stronger in comparison, and therefore take advantage of the others’ weakening. It is precisely for this reason that the most right-wing, most reactionary sectors of the world and especially in the US, saw the Swedish alternative of public health “laisse fair” as weighty. And preferred e.g. regarding the issue of quarantines or restrictions towards the working classes. This propaganda on the medial right supporting the Swedish model, in Fox News for example, was disappearing to the same extent that the facts showed Sweden was suffering economic and financial losses in the same magnitude as neighboring countries applying the lockdown, as in Finland and Denmark.
– The second characteristic arises from the dialectic in the implementation of the above mentioned economic aim: To keep production competitive, the Swedish capitalists needed an uninterrupted flow of the labor force. To put it in the words of Tegnell himself in an interview with the BBC on April 1, 2020: “If we close schools in Sweden we lose 20-25 percent of the workforce.” And that is the reason why they did not apply the public health measures as recommended by the WHO, while those were adopted in other countries.
So, in other words, Sweden bet on saving the economy, but not the lives? And is this typical of a left-wing government, as the government of the Social Democracy is supposed to be?
– The above does not make the Swedish model a “left model”, absolutely not, but precisely the opposite: the Swedish model is hyper neoliberal.
– And this is the surreal: For the naive victims of an alienation of which they are not even fully aware, and who for this or for other psychological needs continue to believe in Tegnell, and even “adore” him iconographically, the Swedish strategy should be defended because “it is the strategy of a left government.” But is not.
– Salvador Allende, for example, he was on the left. When in August 1939 he was appointed Minister of Health in the Government of Aguirre Cerda, he ordered to carry out the first Cadastre of Chilean Public Health. In broad terms, it could be said that public health in Chile, a pioneer in Latin America, was initiated by the left with Salvador Allende. In other words, the priority was the health of the people, the people, not the health of the pockets of usurers or of the coffers of capitalists and clergy. Of course, it was the time of the leftist Popular Front government. The priority of public health in a leftist government, or simply ethical, that is humane, is saving lives, preventing diseases, fighting epidemics and pandemics.
– Instead of the priority of saving the accumulation of capital and trying to increase the competitive economic position, the left line in public health prioritizes the health of its citizens.
– And protect the elderly. It does not kill them. That is what the fascists do, the servants of finance capital and multinational corporations such as the Swedish arms industry and its derivatives. They do not hesitate to euthanize in order to profit from the sale of weapons that bomb and murder the miserable populations of Yemen. Sweden helps the richest country in the Middle East to decimate the impoverished population of the poorest country in the region. Pandemic or no pandemic, the sale of weapons protected by the “leftist” government of Sweden to the countries of the coalition led by Saudi Arabia, to be used in the massacre of the Yemeni people, has not stopped one iota. For the rest, the economic policy of the Swedish government is the result of an agreement to that end imposed by the “Center” and “Liberal” parties, clearly on the right.
This issue, that of the elderly who have died in nursing homes, is something that has shocked many, but not all. The idea that “they already lived, now they have to die.” Isn’t this a terrible ethical issue that Sweden should face sometime and why does most people seem not to care? Why this obedience, this silence and this acceptance without questioning what comes?
– In my observations of the international comments and the Swedish press and TV, and also on social networks, referring to the “Swedish strategy” regarding the pandemic, and which, of course, are echoed in Aftonbladet and in Swedish news programs On TV, these five factors stand out mainly:
– a) There are press articles that consider the strategy as an “alternative”, a product of “Swedish creativity”, of its independent and “uncompromised” line (the Swedish position of “non alignment”), something original and that the authorities of the FHM and the government lead with courage and without bowing to outside criticism.
– But nobody can think of the explanation – or they don’t say it – that this behavior does not correspond to a healthy perseverance, but rather a pathological stubbornness. And that analyzing only a little more in depth the geopolitical history of Sweden, that country is not and has never been so “neutral” or non-alignment practitioner.
– b) The Swedish official media themselves insist on the image of a functioning strategy “precisely in Sweden”, as this country is so developed civically, that, unlike civically “more backward” countries in the world (that is, all the others according to Swedish chauvinism) they do not have a public that “trusts” in their political authorities and therefore faithfully and voluntarily follows the decisions of those authorities.
– However, no one thinks that the true reason for that “obedience” lies in a process of political alienation, which ends up being social and also existential. And the above explains the pathological, in terms of social psychiatry, of the chauvinistic comments of the “herd”, of the tattoos self-marked by the sheep on their bare skin. From idolatry to unreason that is venerated by the naive. Herd immunity is only achieved in the chimera of the docile, and thanks to the fact that governments have first obtained an immunity to reason among their citizens.
– That a healthy civic conduct implies not blind obedience, but a critical appreciation; that involves an understanding of the immediate and immediate ends of the measures proposed by the authorities. Obedience is not a virtue but a disease. In my books I argue that obedience is the antonym of freedom, and that the absence of freedom is the denial of civility. The critical spirit should be prevalent throughout the society. With this I am not advocating disobedience per se, but for the agreement of the individual, and the decisions that take into account the destiny of our entire collective. From ontogenesis to phylogenesis.
– c) Statistical presentations on Sweden, those that without repetitions of the FHM and especially those of the last weeks, always highlight a decrease in figures in terms of deaths from covid-19 or new cases etc.
– But, this decrease is also observed in all countries, and the quantitative difference of the decrease comparing Sweden with other countries does not appear in the official reports there [from Sweden].
– Then there is the matter of what the Swedish media “report” on Sweden’s position in the tragic world ranking of fatalities from the pandemic. There is a lot of scam here, a lot of propaganda, a lot of manipulation. For example, the figures that, according to them, place Sweden only in the “ninth” place in the world for deaths per 100,000 inhabitants crown. But for that they include for example Andorra, San Marino, which would be on the list before Sweden. Which is a statistical outrage, since the total population of these “countries” does not even reach nearly 100,000 inhabitants. Imagine that San Marino in total has just 30,000 people. DN says that those countries have a population equivalent to mid-size Swedish cities, which is not true. “Medelstora städer” (medium-sized cities) in Sweden have an average of more than one hundred thousand inhabitants, inferred from an analysis by Umeå University.
– Another aberration, even greater, is what, for “official” statistical purposes, that is, international comparisons, etc., FHM identifies and categorizes as “deaths from Covid-19”. For the FHM, only the cases “verified” by themselves count, that is, those that they had already registered as positive in the active infection test, for example, in hospitals. The reality is that they thus leave out all the fatalities due to Covid-19 that died in nursing homes or at home, including those in which Swedish doctors have written on the death certificate that it was Covid-19 as a cause. . This anomaly increases the number of deaths by at least ten percent, as I explained in an article published in the United States.
– d) Tegnell always presents the international panorama first in heartbreaking and catastrophic terms, and delivering absolute figures, not percentage. Only below are the figures for Sweden presented, also in absolute terms and, of course, that the difference is impressive and favors Sweden, presenting Tegnell’s strategy as the winner. But the only absolute thing is the falsity of the presentation. The figures may be authentic for many (a question that, and I personally doubt, and based), but if they were calculated based on the number of inhabitants, or certain categories (age, for example), or demographic density, etc. ., the comparison is very different. For the rest, Tegnell and Co. arbitrarily choose the countries with which they compare Sweden, or has even come to compare the entire country of Sweden with cities in other countries and that he himself chooses at will.
– No one complains or asks questions among journalists. They swallow it all, either by order of their headquarters, or by “patriotism”, or ignorance, or lack of professional spirit.
– e) Another “statistical” issue of greater scandal is the insistence on presenting the figures of unoccupied beds in the intensive treatment units of Swedish hospitals, to give the impression that serious cases in Sweden were not and are not so many in comparison with other countries. What an ignominy. To clarify what I mean by ignominy, I will say that in my Spanish it is a synonym for scoundrel.
– What neither the government nor the FHM officials nor the Swedish press or TV recognize is that, if there are or were unoccupied beds in the intensive treatment units of Swedish hospitals, it is because those authorities had imposed a deadly policy, a lapidary instruction on not admitting elderly people to intensive treatment. And not only referring to the elderly, but the selection starts from the 70s upwards, or according to what they call “biological age”. In other words, they presented “unoccupied beds” as proof of efficiency, or of low incidence of serious infections, thanks to the fact that at the same time they were consciously denying medical attention to the elderly, then, leaving them to die in hospices or at home. From a medical point of view that was and is an ethical aberration. From a criminal point of view, I consider it a crime, and therefore I consider that those authorities must respond to international justice.
And the question about Johan Carlson’s claim that the great spread of the crown in Sweden was due to “chance”, and that therefore “we should not compare ourselves with the Nordic countries”?
– “Chance” or “option”? The Greek Aesop wrote an inspiring story more than two thousand five hundred years ago, the content of which I will reconstitute here, corrected and augmented as the “Fable of the Epidemiologist and Fortune”: An epidemiologist was sitting at the edge of a well, and as he was a little lazy he fell asleep as pandemics passed from right to left through town. As his conceit was so grown and heavy on his head, in the middle of sleep and as his head bent, by force of gravity he falls into the well dragging his entire body. Some time later, journalists come to save him and take him out of the well, and ask him how, why, that had happened to him. To which he responds, “ah, it was by chance, a reversal of fortune.” In 1781, Félix María de Samaniego summarized: “Setbacks of fortune, you call misery: Why, if they are setbacks of foolish behavior?”
– Chance refers to a mixture of circumstances which, together, or separately, it is not possible to anticipate. Corollary, chance is synonymous with inevitable. But “circumstances” comes from the Latin circumstantiae, that is, the factors surrounding something or an episode. Here the obvious thing is that around Sweden we have its neighboring countries, Norway, Denmark and Finland.
– Only by examining the surrounding countries, Sweden could have avoided misfortune. And it is a slaughter very lightly attributed only to the lethality of the coronavirus. In fact, its proportions are the result of a choice made by those authorities and their incompetent advisers. The disaster of the Swedish strategy is definitely not the result of chance or bad luck.
– As I say, Sweden could perfectly have avoided its catastrophe if it had observed the course of events in the countries of its own neighborhood. These countries, contrary to Carlson claims, are comparable to Sweden both culturally and in public health systems. This cultural identity between Nordic countries has, on the contrary, been a constant theme in Swedish propaganda born of its imperial time. Both Finland and Norway have been part of Swedish imperial design, and the history of Denmark is linked with that of Sweden. One difference has been in the use of these resources, and in the context of the strategy adopted. But the big difference is the option that Sweden implemented on the one hand, and on the other the equivalent authorities in those other bordering and homogeneous countries in culture, etc.
– Finally, it is not true, it is a lie by Tegnell, that the phases of the pandemic in neighboring countries were different from that of Sweden. This was denied by the Public Health authorities themselves in, for example, Finland and Norway.
– The main characteristic of Tegnell and Carlson’s “Swedish strategy”, and of their nepotic character Giesecke, and of their court of acolytes who parade through the screen without being questioned by journalists, is that it has allowed to die without reason or compassion thousands of Swedes. Thousands of old people have died needlessly.
– These characters, in my opinion, whatever mitigating health causes that their lawyers may offer in their favor will have to respond to justice. And in the face of history, because they have liquidated the once international prestige of Olof Palme’s Sweden.