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COVID-19

Sweden records deadliest November in a century

Sweden registered more deaths last month than in any other November in more than 100 years, Sweden's national statistics agency has reported.

Sweden records deadliest November in a century
A grave in Ulriksdal, Stockholm. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT
According to Statistics Sweden, the country returned to excess mortality in November, meaning that more deaths from all causes were recorded than the historical average for the month over the past five years.

In total, 8,088 deaths were registered, which is 10 percent more than the five-year average of 7,383.
 
“This is the highest number of deaths recorded in November since 1918, which is the year the Spanish flu broke out,” Tomas Johansson, a demographer at SCB, said. 
 
The highest death toll came on November 15th, when 292 people died. But more deaths were recorded every single day between November 12th and November 27th than on any November day since 2015. 
 
Excess mortality in the second wave has so far nonetheless remained below that seen in the spring between March 29th and May 1st, when at least 300 people died each day. 
“Since the middle of the year, the number of deaths has lain at a normal level for the period, but in November the number of deaths started to rise significantly,” Johansson said. 
 
Between July and September, mortality in Sweden was in fact slightly below average, 12 percent below average for women, and two percent below average for men.
 
The November figures seems less alarming when adjusted for the growing size of the Swedish population.
 
On a per capita basis, November was only the deadliest in a decade, with 77.9 people dying per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to 79.2 in November, 2010. 
 
Johansson said that last month's excess mortality had been confined to the over-65s, with lower-than-average mortality recorded for people of 64 and under. 
 
Excess mortality was recorded this November in every region in Sweden except Norrbotten, Västernorrland and Värmland 
 
Only two regions, Skåne and Kronoberg, registered higher excess mortality in November than during the spring months.  

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COVID-19

Did Sweden’s state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

For his supporters, it was well-deserved, for his detractors a case of failing upwards. But when Sweden's Public Health Agency announced this month that state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell was taking a job at the World Health Organisation, both sides assumed it was true.

Did Sweden's state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

Now, it seems, the job might not be there after all. 

At the start of this month, Sweden’s Public Health Agency announced that Anders Tegnell was resigning to take up a post coordinating vaccine work with the World Health Organisation in Geneva. 

“I’ve worked with vaccines for 30 years and have at the same time always been inspired by international issues,” Tegnell said in the release. “Now I will have the chance to contribute to this comprehensive international work.”

During the first and second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, Tegnell shot immediately from obscurity into the spotlight, gaining such celebrity status in Sweden that one fan had his profile tattooed onto his arm.

Internationally he was hailed by lockdown sceptics for his reasoned arguments against overly restrictive measures to control the spread of the virus. 

His new WHO appointment was reported all over the world. 

But on Tuesday, the Svenska Daglabdet newspaper revealed that the job had not yet been awarded. A spokesperson for the WHO said at a press conference in Geneva that “there is some confusion”, and that “this is an internal question.” 

According to the newspaper, there is even “a certain level of irritation” behind the scenes at the WHO that Sweden acted too soon and dispatched Tegnell to a job that did not actually exist yet. 

“We have received an offer from Sweden, which is still under discussion,” the organisation’s press spokesperson, Fadela Chaib, told the newspaper. 

On Thursday, the Public Health Agency’s press chief Christer Janson conceded that there had been a mistake and that the negotiation had not been completed.  

“We believed it was done, but it wasn’t,” he told Expressen in an interview. “It’s been a much longer process to get this completed than we thought. There’s been a misunderstanding and we regret that.” 

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