Sweden records highest weekly mortality since the turn of the century

The Local Sweden
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Sweden records highest weekly mortality since the turn of the century
A grave in Ulriksdal, Stockholm. The capital has had three weeks with double the number of deaths typical for the time of year. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

During the week before Easter, Sweden recorded its highest number of deaths in the 21st century.


According to preliminary figures from Statistics Sweden, a total of 2,505 people died in the week of April 6th-12th, equivalent to 358 deaths each day.

The weekly figure is almost 150 more deaths than in Sweden's second deadliest week of the century, which saw 2,364 people die during the first week of the year 2000. 

The third and fourth highest death tolls to date also come from 2020. There were 2,354 deaths in week 14, between March 30th and April 5th, and 2,310 deaths in week 16 (April 13th-19th), according to the same data.

"It's important to clearly state that these are preliminary statistics, and that the death toll especially for the most recent weeks will be revised upward," said statistician Tomas Johansson from Statistics Sweden. 


The day with the most recorded deaths so far in 2020 was April 8th, when 380 deaths were recorded.

Stockholm, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Sweden, has seen an especially high death toll. Between weeks 14 and 16, the weekly death toll has been more than double the average for the same weeks over the past five years.

Five other regions have seen a doubling of the five-year average death toll on at least one week this year: Uppsala, Södermanland, Östergötland, Gotland, Västmanland and Dalarna.

The municipality of Sundbyberg in the north of Stockholm has seen the biggest increase in death rate for the period March 21st to April 20th, compared to its average over the past five years.

"Both in Sundbyberg and Borlänge, more than three times as many people have died during 2020 than the average [in the same period] for the years 2015-2019," said Tomas Johansson.

Nine pages of obituaries in a Dagens Nyheter Sunday edition this month, compared to a usual four. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT


Statistics Sweden has made its data on deaths available earlier than usual, with the aim of giving a clearer picture of the impact of the new coronavirus.

While not all of the recorded deaths will be due to the virus, it's likely that the virus is the main reason for the increase or 'extra' deaths compared to previous years, and so these figures help us get a clear picture of its impact on society.

In Sweden's official death toll for the coronavirus, the country includes deaths that take place in hospitals and care homes as well as those which take place elsewhere.

This is possible because Sweden has a centralised register of deaths, and the Public Health Agency is adding these to the official death count where it is found that the deceased person had the virus. That's in contrast to many countries worldwide which only include hospital deaths in their official figures.

A recent New York Times study looked into the increase of deaths in 12 countries compared to averages from previous years, to get an estimate of how many coronavirus deaths may be missing from official tolls.

Sweden's death toll was 12 percent higher than its historic average, the study found, and the reported coronavirus deaths more than accounted for this difference, suggesting that deaths from other causes were lower than the historic average for this period. 

This was also the case in Belgium where the death toll was 25 percent higher than its own historic average.

But in the other ten countries, the reported coronavirus deaths were less than the number of 'extra' deaths. In Spain for example, at the time of the study there were 19,700 more deaths than the historic average, but just 12,401 reported deaths with coronavirus, while in the Netherlands there were 4,000 more deaths than normal but only 1,900 reported deaths with coronavirus.


What should you be doing to help reduce the rate of infection?

In Sweden, the official advice requires everyone to:

  • Stay at home if you have any cold- or flu-like symptoms, even if they are mild and you would normally continue life as normal. Stay at home until you have been fully symptom-free for at least two days.
  • Practise good hygiene, by regularly and thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water, using hand sanitiser when that's not possible, and covering any coughs and sneezes with your elbow.
  • Keep distance from all other people when in public places. That includes shops, parks, museums, and on the street, for example. The World Health Organisation recommends keeping at least a 1.5-2 metre distance.
  • Avoid large gatherings, including parties, weddings, and other activities.
  • Work from home if you can. Employers have been asked to ensure this happens where possible.
  • Avoid all non-essential travel, both within and outside Sweden. That includes visits to family, planned holidays, and any other trips that can be avoided.
  • If you have to travel, avoid busy times such as rush hour if you can. This reduces the number of people on public transport and makes it easier for people to keep their distance.
  • If you are over 70 or belong to a high-risk group, you should stay at home and reduce all social contacts. Avoid going to the shops (get groceries delivered or try to find someone who can help you), but you can go outside if you keep distance from other people. Read more about the help available to those in risk groups here.
  • By following these precautions, we can all help to protect those who are most at risk and to reduce the rate of infection, which in turn reduces the burden on Sweden's healthcare sector.
  • Read more detail about the precautions we should all be taking in this paywall-free article. Advice in English is also available from Sweden's Public Health Agency and the World Health Organisation.


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[email protected] 2020/04/28 15:57
I totally agree with SarahW. I am shocked that the Swedish people accept what is happening here, and the number of people who are dying without any need, and just because of incompetence coming from the Swedish government.
[email protected] 2020/04/27 19:29
These deaths are a side effect of herd immunity. Swedes should be outraged and they are not. I think Tegnell should go live on tv and become infected with covid-19 and show those 60% of Swedes, who he calculates will carry herd immunity, that they'll be fine.
[email protected] 2020/04/27 17:46
The first week of the year 2000 belongs to 20th century. 21st century begins on 1st of Jan 2001.

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