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April 16, 2020

Sweden slow to adopt Covid-19 mitigation measures

By GlobalData Healthcare

There are now more than 1.95 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 worldwide. The disease has caused more than 120,000 deaths worldwide, with southern Europe and New York City in the US being some of the hardest-hit areas. As data reporting for Covid-19 continues to improve and the numbers of confirmed cases and deaths continue to rise, the effects of different approaches to the pandemic begin to emerge. Sweden has been slow to adopt any measures intended to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic and the morbid results are evident. Sweden has a significantly higher mortality rate from Covid-19 than its neighbouring counties.

Figure 1 presents the rate of death (deaths per 1,000,000 population) from Covid-19, in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland.

It is now highly evident that those countries that were quick to adopt strong measures of social isolation, distancing, and testing have seen the best possible outcomes in this crisis in terms of mortality prevention so far.

Sweden and the comparison of deaths from Covid-19 to its neighbouring countries Denmark, Norway, and Finland, shows a great example of just how important strong social restrictions are in mitigating the worst outcomes of this pandemic. As a nation, Sweden elected to adopt a more hands-off approach to the Covid-19 pandemic, choosing to only quarantine those most at risk for severe disease and to allow the disease to run its natural course in the country. This is in stark contrast to its neighbouring countries where strict social isolation measures were taken swiftly. In comparison, Denmark was the second country in Europe to enforce a nationwide lockdown, with Norway doing so a day later. Similarly, Finland imposed a lockdown that included closing its border shortly thereafter.

As a result of their chosen strategies, Sweden has a mortality rate of 103.3 deaths per 1,000,000 population while Norway has a death rate of 26.8 and Finland a rate of 11.8 deaths per 1,000,000 population. Comparing the rate of death in these Fenno-Scandinavian countries provides a unique opportunity to capture differences in Covid-19 response. The geographic proximity, comparable population structures, and similar cultural practices of these countries provide a solid basis for comparison of Covid-19 response outcomes. Thus, any differences seen in the mortality rates are largely attributable to the responses taken by the individual countries.

From these numbers, it is evident that the approach taken by Sweden has directly resulted in a higher death toll from Covid-19. Strict measures enforcing social isolation, social distancing, and making testing available do work and should have been adopted to prevent the worst outcomes of this pandemic.

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Currently, Sweden still has not adopted significant nationwide social distancing measures and the disease continues to spread in the country of roughly 10 million people. The mortality in Sweden is already significantly higher than its neighbours, and will likely continue to grow. Some physicians in Sweden have stated that difficult decisions will need to be made in regards to who receives treatment and who does not. How long the virus will continue to spread is still unknown but without proper measures, it is evident the toll this disease will have.

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