Alarm as Covid-19 cases rise once again in Sweden

Alarm as Covid-19 cases rise once again in Sweden
A doctor in an intensive care unit in Gothenburg, one of several regions now reporting a rise in Covid-19 patients in ICUs. Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT
As of Monday, a total of 240 people were receiving intensive care treatment for Covid-19 across Sweden, up from 197 just ten days previously.

In early January, the figure reached more than 380 at its highest, still a significant drop from the peak of the first wave in spring 2020, when more than 500 people were being treated in ICUs for Covid-19.

The intensive care figures give a reflection of the levels of infection one to two weeks previously, because on average people are admitted to intensive care 10.8 days after falling ill. 

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Of Sweden’s 21 regions, around a half say that the number of people in intensive care for Covid-19 is increasing. 

The regions with the highest number of intensive care patients per capita are Västerbotten, Norrbotten, Jönköping and Västra Götaland.

The uptick has prompted Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) to call extra coordination meetings, and one of the major concerns is that comparitively smaller regions like Västerbotten and Norrbotten are now hard hit.

“It is always concerning if a small regions gets a big influx of patients,” the agency’s Taha Alexandersson told the TT newswire.

“The Swedish healthcare system is built on us being able to help each other, but if several regions are having an equally hard time it can get difficult. In the northern regions, they are very used to transporting patients, but the resources aren’t endless.”

Even though twice as many people were in the ICUs for Covid-19 during the spring, that doesn’t mean the current levels will be easily manageable.

In spring 2020, Sweden’s healthcare system underwent a major restructuring, doubling the number of available ICU beds in an operation that required postponement of some other care, assistance from the military, and many healthcare staff working longer and more shifts than usual. This can’t be sustained, Alexandersson stressed.

She said that the main thing she wanted to communicate to the public was the need for everyone to follow national and local recommendations extremely closely.

“The challenge is making sure that they are followed, but together we can do it, through the decisions that are taken by different organisations and through the decisions every individual makes,” she said.

“Meeting fewer people is the single most important thing at the moment.”


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