Editor's note: The Public Health Agency originally published inaccurate figures due to what the agency said had been a calculation error. The Local's article has been updated to reflect the amended report.
Sweden's Public Health Agency writes that its new report is not meant to be interpreted as a prognosis, but will be used to facilitate planning for other Swedish authorities in their future infectious disease work.
“There's a lot of uncertainty. This has been a very hard disease to predict where it's going to end up, and I would even say that pretty much everyone who has tried to come up with some kind of prognosis has been more or less wrong,” said state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell at Tuesday's press conference.
That said, the report outlines three different scenarios stretching until September 1st next year.
The best-case scenario would see the rate of infection remain at a relatively low level, which would lead to the spread of infection slowly subsiding. It estimates that 1,108 people would die from the coronavirus in such a scenario, in addition to the approximately 5,600 victims who have already passed away.
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The second scenario is based on the virus spreading unevenly, which could see a second wave hit Sweden this autumn followed by a new peak in early 2021. According to the Public Health Agency's model, almost 3,250 more people would die in this situation, of whom almost 2,980 would be older than 70.
This could be what happens if people in Sweden start to resume social contacts with new people and in large groups, writes the Public Health Agency. It adds in the report: “This scenario assumes that the infectivity decreases rapidly again as people become aware of the outbreak and follow recommendations on social distancing. After a couple of months, there is a similar rapid increase and decrease.”
The third scenario outlines what could happen if the spread of infection were to increase steadily in all 21 regions across Sweden. Some 4,460 people could die in that scenario, including around 4,010 aged over 70.
Tegnell said that he believed Sweden would most likely see some kind of combination of the first two scenarios, with small cluster outbreaks such as the one in the Gällivare mining town in northern Sweden.
The report comes in response to a request from the government, which earlier this month ordered the Public Health Agency, the National Board of Health and Welfare, the Medical Products Agency, the Civil Contingencies Agency and the country’s county administrative boards to start drawing up plans for how to tackle a renewed rise in serious infections – which has happened in some other countries.
Epidemiologist Björn Olsen, who has been critical of the Swedish strategy, told the Dagens Industri newspaper last month he thought a second wave was unlikely, but said it is likely the virus will be around for many years, with a risk of new clusters of cases if people fail to act responsibly.
The government agencies and county administrative boards are scheduled to present their final reports by September 1st. You can read the Public Health Agency’s new report, which outlines scenarios for all Swedish regions, here (in Swedish).