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Citizen-Z Cavan Young's 2004 film about the zamboni crisis





Additional media and public health summaries (from Deborah Craig, Stockholm)

April 17, 2021

Article in the Daily Telegraph (UK): If Sweden's Covid strategy is such a disaster, why is it still so popular?

April 15, 2021

Perhaps some of you watched Johan Giesecke’s (former chief epidemiologist in Sweden) interview on Unherd last year, when he advocated again lockdowns, said the virus was already endemic and therefore would be impossible to contain, and worried about the loss of civil liberties. I wonder how much influence he has had behind the scenes influencing policy here.

Here he is a year later discussing what he got wrong and what he got right. Interesting!


April 15 2021, re covid deaths

I think what happens is that the register is being continually updated, not just updated every day, so data as posted by both sites can be out of sync, but if you go further back, they line up.

Platz.se also has “dödsfall” https://platz.se/coronavirus/#jump-to-total-deaths (deaths) if you want to check your numbers - scroll down for lots of interesting breakdowns of age, sex, etc., and they seem to have managed to spread out the deaths more evenly per day. I believe those jumps in numbers is a reporting issue more generally - the numbers are received from the different regions in batches, and you notice they dip on weekends when there is poor reporting, and then spike early in the week when people are back at work.

Feb.21, 2021, from Deborah in Sweden

Sweden’s death toll among lowest in Europe translated below by me and Google.

Sweden's death toll among the lowest in Europe

Most countries in Europe have been hit much harder by the pandemic than Sweden, according to a recent compilation of excess mortality. But in the Nordic countries, Sweden is by far the highest. The pattern is reminiscent of previous pandemics.

Telegram from TT / Omni
Feb 19 2021, 05.25

There are myths circulating that Sweden would be among the worst affected by covid-19 in Europe. That was true to some extent at the end of the first wave in May, and it seems to be the image that has stuck in the minds of many. But now you see that Sweden is one of the more lightly affected countries in Europe, says Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist, historian at Stockholm University and author of the book "Corona - the pandemic of our time in a historical perspective".

About two thirds of the countries in Europe have a significantly higher excess mortality rate than Sweden. But in the Nordic region, Sweden is still by far the highest. For now anyway, because the situation in Denmark has been deteriorating since the beginning of the year, he adds.

Excess mortality is calculated by comparing how many people have died during the year compared with the previous four years, and is one of the more accurate ways of examining how a society is affected by, for example, a pandemic. According to Ljungqvist, it is a basic tool, as he analyzes the consequences of famine, plagues and other historical events.

It is a robust measurement, which makes it possible to compare different countries with similar demographics. Beginning with a country’s own reporting of infection and deaths in covid-19 is, in principle, meaningless, because testing and criteria vary so much. In addition, doing it week by week at the beginning of a pandemic is almost useless, as the situation changes drastically the longer the infection lasts. We already know this about pandemics, says Ljungqvist.

By compiling the latest available data on excess mortality in Europe in 2020, he has seen patterns that are largely reminiscent of how previous pandemics have hit Europe.

A typical phenomenon is that the countries that are slightly affected during the first wave get a much harder blow during the next wave. Areas such as Central and Eastern Europe coped well with the first wave, but were hit hard during the second wave of autumn and winter. Now after the New Year, the pandemic has also hit Ireland, Portugal, Slovakia and Latvia hard, which were previously spared, says Ljungqvist.

Another interesting pattern can be seen in the Nordic countries, he points out. During the most recent major outbreaks of disease - the Asian (1957), the Hong Kong flu (1968) and the severe flu in 1976 - Sweden and Denmark have generally been hit harder than Norway, Iceland and Finland. Nobody has been able to fully explain why. According to Ljungqvist, possible causes could be Sweden's and Denmark's much larger and cohesive urban areas and closer contact with the continent.

Most say that Norway, Finland and Iceland will have the lowest death rates in the Nordic countries and in fact in all of Europe when the pandemic is over, says Ljungqvist.

TT: Perhaps fewer people are dying from, for example, influenza and the winter stomach flu, due to all the pandemic restrictions, so the mortality rate from covid-19 is actually higher than the calculated excess mortality rate?

Yes, that can be. But it is the same pattern in all European countries, so it does not matter for the comparison, says Ljungqvist.

Severe pandemics have been a relatively common throughout history, affecting humanity at approximately 30-year intervals in recent centuries. Against this background, Ljungqvist thinks it is actually historically unusual that this pandemic has lasted so long.

There is a reason why many are so unprepared today. Our view of illness and death has also changed dramatically. We see it as something that can usually be avoided, so we are not used to so many people getting seriously ill or dying in a short time.

A seemingly paradoxical effect of all medical advances, he adds, is that even less serious viruses can have more severe consequences today, as the proportion of the elderly and vulnerable has increased sharply.

It is basically something very positive. But it can also be more difficult for society to deal with such a disease, our unfamiliarity with pandemics can cause great anxiety and panic. Then it is easy to lose the wider perspective, says Ljungqvist.

Excess mortality in Europe 2020

The difference in the number of deaths during 2020 compared with an average for the years 2016–2019 in each country.

Liechtenstein: 20.8%
Spain: 18.9%
Poland: 18.7%
Slovenia: 18.5%
Italy: 17.4%
Belgium: 16.7%
Czech Republic: 16.6%
Bulgaria: 15.1%
United Kingdom: 15.1%
Switzerland: 13.0%
Malta: 12.6%
Lithuania: 12.3%
Netherlands: 11.6%
Romania: 11.1%
Austria: 11.1%
Portugal: 11.0%
Slovakia: 10.5%
Luxembourg: 10.4%
France: 10.4%
Cyprus: 9.2%
Croatia: 9.1%
Hungary: 8.1%
Sweden: 7.6%
Greece: 7.5%
Germany: 5.3%
Estonia: 3.1%
Finland: 2.7%
Iceland: 1.6%
Denmark: 1.6%
Latvia: 0.4%
Norway: -0.4%

Source: Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist, based on data from Eurostat, the University of Oxford and Statistics Sweden.

Info on ICU hospitalizations

....and the demographics and underlying health conditions of those who are admitted - lots of men in their early 60s with hypertension. Partly in English. Live links.

Swedish intensive care numbers

Live links showing covid-related deaths in Sweden

Our World in Data -- published Nov.13, 2020 but showing live links of covid-related deaths in Sweden up to the present.

Back to letters from Sweden

Content last modified on April 22, 2021, at 03:01 AM EST