Between lockdown and calm down. Comparing the COVID-19 responses of Norway and Sweden

Jostein Askim, Tomas Bergström

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article studies the difference in the government response to COVID-19 in Norway and Sweden drawing upon theories of agenda setting, crisis management and multi-level governance. Despite having virtually identical systems of government and, initially, facing similar infection threats, Sweden opted for far less strict countermeasures than Norway. While Norway’s government response was similar to that of many European countries, Sweden received international attention for choosing befuddlingly soft measures, mostly recommendations and guidelines. This divergence is discussed vis-à-vis the multiple streams lens of agenda setting theory, highlighting differences in institutional and organisational legacies (e.g., the autonomy of government agencies) and intergovernmental relations (e.g., whether infectious disease expertise and authority is located at the local level).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-311
JournalLocal Government Studies
Issue number2
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Economics and Business
  • Political Science

Free keywords

  • autonomy
  • COVID-19
  • expertise
  • intergovernmental relations
  • local governments
  • multiple streams
  • norway
  • sweden


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