AS I made my way to Heathrow Airport on March 25, I couldn’t help but feel that I was making a narrow escape.

Boris Johnson had two days earlier announced a UK lockdown, disrupting our lives in ways we’d previously never imagined.

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Sun writer Alice Grahns explains what life is like in Sweden - the country which has refused to lockdown

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Sun writer Alice Grahns explains what life is like in Sweden – the country which has refused to lockdownCredit: AFP – Getty

The number of coronavirus cases were spiralling, yet we now know we hadn’t hit the peak.

With all of my friends and my boyfriend planning to lock down with their families, I’d decided to travel to my hometown Stockholm to do the same.

Very quickly upon arriving it was clear that I’d become part of the “Swedish experiment”.

As the whole world went into lockdown, we didn’t.

Politicians around the world imposed strict rules on their citizens, but we were effectively told to use our common sense.

And Swedish people tend to do what the government tells them to.

In Sweden, restaurants, bars, hairdressers, gyms and all retailers are still open. If you want to go to the cinema, you can.

Restaurants and cafes are still operating, meaning meals out are the norm

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Restaurants and cafes are still operating, meaning meals out are the norm
Social distancing is encouraged but businesses are still open

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Social distancing is encouraged but businesses are still openCredit: Getty Images – Getty

Hotels are also still welcoming guests, so holidaymakers with disrupted travel plans abroad have booked a staycation instead.

Alternatively, they’ve gone on road trips to other parts of the country or escaped to holiday homes. 

Of course, it’s not quite business as usual.

But compared to the rest of the world, Sweden has remained as close to everyday life as possible.

As my friends around the world have been forced into a 14-day quarantine, I’ve gone out for meals and drinks.

When my UK pals were unable to meet people outside of their household, I went to the cinema with my family.

Some people have been forced into quarantine, but for many life has stayed the same

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Some people have been forced into quarantine, but for many life has stayed the sameCredit: AFP – Getty
Family visits and dinner with friends all still go ahead

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Family visits and dinner with friends all still go ahead

I also visited my 90-year-old grandma, although I made sure to keep my distance.

Plus, I’ve been to the hairdresser and dentist, and taken public transport when I didn’t have any other choice.

But just because a majority of places are open doesn’t mean people have gone there in droves either.

“Never did I think Sweden would be the best country to live in”, a friend said one night.

We all watched in surprise as the rest of the world announced stricter measures, including the UK, while our own government refused.

In order to somewhat save the economy, we were still living free.

If you want to go to the cinema, you can

Alice Grahns

As I made my way home on a Saturday night at 11pm, the streets and bars were filling up with boozing Swedes.

Apart from the signage to keep your distance and the closed nightclubs, it was almost like any other Saturday night in Stockholm.

This freedom has been appreciated – yet I’ve wondered what price we pay for it.

I’ve felt safe, and so have my friends. We’ve been careful but haven’t taken it to the extreme.

Nobody has really worried that much, but I still worry about family members in risk groups.

How can Sweden take such a different approach to the rest of the world?

With over 4,000 deaths, it’s clear we have a higher death rate than neighbouring countries.

Sweden has some of the highest death rates in the world compared to population size

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Sweden has some of the highest death rates in the world compared to population size

Whether they’ll catch up with us during a second wave remains to be seen.

But I’d happily give up my restaurant meal if the government told me my actions put the life of someone else’s parent, sibling or child at risk. 

After two months in Stockholm, I’m coming back to London with mixed feelings.

On the one hand, I’m excited to see friends and my boyfriend again. But I’m also concerned about what’s to come.

With the UK having suffered the most coronavirus-related deaths after the US, I’m going back to Europe’s epicentre. Plus, I’m giving up my freedom too. 

As I’m on my way to Arlanda Airport in Stockholm one morning, it’s the first time in many years I’m actually nervous about a flight.

Scandinavian Airlines has just started doing direct flights to London again, but only once a day.

And at the airport, it’s clear what a devastating effect coronavirus has had on the travel industry.

Airports are noticeably different two months later

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Airports are noticeably different two months later
Gates are empty and very few flights are still operating

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Gates are empty and very few flights are still operating
Masks are mandatory while middle seats are empty on flights back to the UK

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Masks are mandatory while middle seats are empty on flights back to the UK

On the departure board, there are only 19 flights listed, of which two are cancelled.

There are also only six international destinations, including London, Amsterdam, Oslo, Frankfurt, Helsinki and Doha, Qatar.

The four screens are usually filled with departures, but today the flights make up just half of one.

At the airport, many shops are also closed. And as we board the flight, all…

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