Int J Environ Res Public Health 18 (20) - [2021-10-19; online 2021-10-19]
Social distancing measures have been a key component in government strategies to mitigate COVID-19 globally. Based on official documents, this study aimed to identify, compare and analyse public social distancing policy measures adopted in Denmark and Sweden regarding the coronavirus from 1 March 2020 until 1 October 2020. A key difference was the greater emphasis on laws and executive orders (sticks) in Denmark, which allowed the country to adopt many stricter policy measures than Sweden, which relied mostly on general guidelines and recommendations (sermons). The main policy adopters in Denmark were the government and the Danish Parliament, whereas the Public Health Agency issued most policies in Sweden, reflecting a difference in political governance and administrative structure in the two countries. During the study period, Sweden had noticeably higher rates of COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations per 100,000 population than Denmark, yet it is difficult to determine the impact or relative effectiveness of sermons and sticks, particularly with regard to broader and longer-term health, economic and societal effects.