Coronavirus in Sweden: Which workers are most likely to test positive – or end up in ICU?

Coronavirus in Sweden: Which workers are most likely to test positive – or end up in ICU?
Nurses were most likely to be diagnosed with Covid-19, but less likely to be admitted to ICUs than people working in the service industry. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT
In a new report, Sweden's Public Health Agency found that people working in care and nursing jobs contracted Covid-19 at a higher rate than average. But they were not the ones who were the most likely to be admitted to intensive care.

The report focused on jobs in medical and care work, as well as jobs in school.

People who fell seriously ill with Covid-19 were most likely to work in jobs that involved a lot of contact with other people, including not only healthcare staff but also teachers and service jobs.

But teachers were not disproportionately affected, according to the agency.

“School staff are a professional group who have been discussed a lot, as one of the largest occupational groups in Sweden. Just as in the spring, we do not see a higher incidence [of Covid-19] compared to other occupational groups where you come into contact with a lot of people,” state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told journalists when the report was presented at the biweekly press conference.

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The report looked at both the rate of confirmed Covid-19 cases and admissions to intensive care for the virus, and found that the occupation with the highest rate in both cases was care and nursing staff. Both doctors and nurses reported more than 5,000 cases per 100,000 people during the autumn (August 24th-December 15th).

“This is probably partly due to extensive sampling of these occupational groups, and many contacts with other people, including patients with Covid-19,” said Tegnell.

The survey showed that teachers at primary school (grundskola) had a higher rate of Covid-19 infections with 4,227 cases per 100,000 people, compared to around 3,500 among upper secondary school teachers. Upper secondary schools have switched to online learning for several months during the peaks of the pandemic.

However, when it came to the rate of admissions to intensive care, the occupational group with the highest rate was “other occupations with high levels of contacts”, in other words work outside the care, healthcare and school sector, but involving a lot of person-to-person contact. Jobs in transport, retail and the service industry would fall into this category, as well as receptionists, estate agents, and hairdressers.

The agency carried out the report by looking at data of confirmed Covid-19 cases and Statistics Sweden's register of occupation. Occupations were available for almost two thirds of confirmed cases.

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