For members


IN NUMBERS: Excess mortality in Sweden during pandemic now lower than most in Europe

Sweden this week reported the highest daily number of confirmed cases so far. But its rate of excess mortality during the pandemic is now less than most other countries in Europe.

IN NUMBERS: Excess mortality in Sweden during pandemic now lower than most in Europe
A Covid-19 test centre in Stockholm. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT
Sweden on Thursday set a new Covid-19 record, registering 23,877 cases. This came just two days after the last record was set, with the 17,457 cases recorded on Tuesday. Daily reported cases are now at around double where they were at Sweden’s previous Covid peak on 23 December 2020, when the previous record of 11,376 daily cases was set. 
Source: Swedish Public Health Agency
While the number of confirmed cases per capita is extremely high, Sweden is by no means an outlier in Europe, with many other countries reporting higher rates over the past seven days. 
The high case rates in Sweden have also, so far, not led to a sharp rise in the number of Covid-19 patients being treated in intensive care in Swedish hospitals.
According to the database kept by public broadcaster SVT, which collects information from official sources, there were 834 patients being treated in hospital (but not in intensive care wards) on Thursday. That is up from 610 on January 1st, and up from 485 patients the week before. But it is well below the number the peak of the second wave at around the same time last year, when hospitals had more than 2,600 Covid patients. 
The number of daily new admissions to intensive care units is also at more or less the same level reported at the end of December. 
According to SVT’s database, there were 106 patients being treated for Covid-19 in intensive care on Saturday, January 8th, 15 fewer than the 121 being treated on January 3rd, and well below the first wave peak of 558 recorded at the end of April in 2020. 
Compared to most other European countries, the number of people being treated in hospital for Covid-19 in Sweden remains low, with only Austria, The Netherlands, and Norway reporting a lower per capita hospitalisation rate.   
When it comes to the number of deaths with Covid-19 over the past seven days, Sweden is in an even better position. In the week running up to and including Friday 7 January, Sweden had the lowest number of confirmed deaths per million people in Europe. 
This follows a pattern seen since early last year.
By the end of October 2020, Sweden had one of the highest Covid death rates in Europe, behind only Belgium, Spain, the UK, and Italy. 
But Sweden’s death rate was relatively low throughout the second half of last year, meaning its cumulative Covid-19 death rate over the pandemic is now lower than those of most countries in Europe. 
When you look at total excess mortality — the cumulative difference between the reported number of deaths since 1 January 2020 and the projected number of deaths for the same period based on previous years — Sweden now has one of the lowest rates in Europe. 

Member comments

  1. I feel like the true comparison should be with Finland, Norway and Denmark. When you compare with those countries Sweden isn’t near the bottom, it’s first place in a race you don’t want to win.

    Someone here want to defend Sweden’s response in light of the graphs?

    1. I agree. The question remains: who determined the policy, what was the policy, and why was it followed. Not facing this with honesty will lead to future problems.

    2. Yup this is completely right, as that comparison takes into account similar economies, climates, social policies & population density/behaviours.

      When you take this comparison it is very evident Sweden has had a very different approach to handling the pandemic: Prioritising maintaining the lifestyles of the majority of citizens over the health of those most in need of help.

      The notion Sweden is one of the ‘best performing’ countries in Europe, given its’ small population, high level of public spending per capitia, is so infuriating.

      Comparisons like the ones in this article feed into a false narrative that no more could have been done to help, in a country where people still won’t wear face masks to stop the spread of the disease to those it could seriously harm.

      As a society Sweden could and should have done much more to protect the most vulnerable people.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


New Covid-19 wave in Sweden ‘to peak at end of September’

Sweden's Public Health Agency has warned of a new autumn wave of Covid-19 which it expects to peak at the end of September.

New Covid-19 wave in Sweden 'to peak at end of September'

According to both of the two new scenarios published by the agency on Monday, infection rates are set to rise steadily over the next month, something the agency said was due to a falling immunity in the population and greater contact between people as they return to schools and workplaces after the summer. 

“It is difficult to say how high the peak will be, but it is unlikely that it will reach the same levels as in January and February,” the agency’s unit chief Sara Byfors said in a press release. “The most important thing is that people in risk groups and those who are 65 years old and above get vaccinated with a booster dose in the autumn to reduce the risk of serious illness and death.” 

Under Scenario 0, the amount of contact between people stays at current levels, leading to a peak in reported Covid-19 cases at around 5,000 a day. In Scenario 1, contact between people increases by about 10 percent from the middle of August, leading to a higher peak of about 7,000 reported cases a day. 

The agency said that employers should be prepared for many staff to be off sick simultaneously at points over the next month, but said in its release that it did not judge the situation to be sufficiently serious to require either it or the government to impose additional infection control measures. 

It was important, however, it said, that those managing health and elderly care continued to test those with symptoms and to track the chain of infections, that people go and get the booster doses when they are supposed to have under the vaccination programme, and that those who have symptoms of Covid-19 stay home.