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Last week in Sweden – a covid report (October 11th – October 18th)

Throughout the Coronavirus crisis, I’ve been summarizing on a weekly basis the most important and talked about happenings from a Swedish perspective. This is week 42.

5,918 people have now died with covid-19 in Sweden; an increase of 24 deaths compared to last week. This is the highest weekly fatality total in two months, but some of these cases occurred earlier, only to be reported this week. The number of daily deaths remains at relatively low and stable levels, when viewed over the last 30 days:

The above diagram shows the dates on which fatalities have occurred over the last 30 days. There are a total of 6 further deaths the dates of which remain unclear. The striped bars represent statistical uncertainty.

This week, Statistics Sweden (the state agency for official statistics) stated that Sweden registered a slightly reduced mortality rate during the third quarter of the year, which is to say that fewer Swedes died than normal during the third quarter of 2020.

Even though Sweden’s mortality is now low, the rate has not fallen as fast as that of other countries, as noticed by Time magazine this week. In the article, one of the – in Sweden – infamous ”22 researchers”, Anders Ewing, professor of Chemistry and a member of the Academy of Sciences, writes together with a freelance journalist, citing a study showing that Sweden and the US had difficulty achieving a steep downward curve for fatalities. The Public Health Agency has chosen not to comment on the article, the criticism or the study.

The article’s backdrop is again one of Sweden being emphasized as a global pioneer, not least due to the high-profile Great Barrington Declaration, which calls on more countries to stop lockdowns, instead letting the young and healthy become infected. It has caused many around the world to react strongly, including 80 top epidemiologists who joined forces with medical journal The Lancet in combined criticism. This week also saw the Financial Times and The Economist writing critically about Sweden’s chosen course.

Enough, though, about Sweden internationally, as it’s clear that we here in Sweden are seeing a continued increase. In part, a slight upward trend in the number of Swedes admitted to ICU, but also an increase in transmissions. This week, Sweden passed 100,000 cases since the start of the pandemic.

Trend of confirmed cases: the above diagram shows the number of confirmed cases per day

However, even the latest increase seems to be somewhat on the wane, as the Public Health Agency states in its weekly report. Calculated week to week, cases most recently increased by 18 percent, compared with a 40 percent increase between weeks 38 and 39, but the increase is of course worrying regardless. It’s still young people aged 20-29 who remain responsible for the biggest share of transmissions. It is also important to point out that on a national level, symptoms shown by those infected continue to be viewed as mild, and the total number of hospitalizations is not increasing to the same extent as the number of infected.

To help reduce the spread of infection, the Public Health Agency has now given Swedish regions the ability to introduce local intensification of general national guidelines. This may involve advising against restaurant visits, or visiting nursing homes. Uppsala, which has been hit hard in recent weeks, is now considering such extra measures. So far they have, together with four other regions, introduced family quarantine, through which all members of a household must now be quarantined if someone is found to be infected.

Why did the elderly have to die without medical care, asked journalist Maceij Zaremba in a well-written and extensive cultural opinion piece in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper. The piece deals mainly with a document obtained by a local paper in the town of Eskilstuna which was revealed earlier this spring. In the document, health and welfare boards issued guidelines to the Stockholm region that could be seen as an explanation as to why several elderly patients received end-of-life care instead of emergency medical care. Most of all, the article painted a picture of the dispute over who controls and coordinates Sweden’s healthcare. The Stockholm region offered harsh criticism in their reply, but embarrassingly misunderstood which document the article was referring to, which Dagens Nyheter then had to point out.
The editor-in-chief of the local Eskilstuna paper also brought up the directive in connection with its publication in Dagens Nyheter, and pointed out how it is the elderly who are forced to bear the brunt of a strategy which allows infection to spread gradually among the healthy.
Meanwhile, three doctors wrote an opinion piece in the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper that the pandemic has mostly just pointed out a flaw in the system that now needs to be taken even more seriously: choosing which patients live and die has been done long before the pandemic gained a foothold in Sweden.

State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has so far never been tested for Covid-19. He hasn’t lost any sleep throughout the pandemic and isn’t worried about getting infected. He told the newspaper ”Chef” this week, ”it’s much more dangerous to cross a pedestrian crossing in the city”. Possibly just a personal reflection from someone who rides his bicycle through rush hour traffic, but as an objective fact it is wrong: in 2019, 27 pedestrians died in road traffic accidents.

A Swedish woman has been infected twice by the coronavirus. This week, it has been confirmed by Swedish doctors that the woman contracted two Covid infections from two different strains of the virus. Nevertheless, researchers are not worried, as it has been observed that the woman had at least partial immunity; the second time she was infected, the disease was much milder than the first. There have previously been reports of similar cases internationally, but not until now in Sweden. Internationally, this week saw the first death reported of a person re-infected with Covid-19; an 89-year-old woman with a rare form of leukemia.

This week’s news in brief:

  • Bookings at Sweden’s ski resorts have increased during the early autumn. Anders Tegnell has warned the public that they should be prepared for eventualities in which they have to cancel their travel plans.
  • The King and Queen returned to public life this week after an extended period in quarantine. As their royal tour of Sweden’s regions began, the couple immediately attracted attention when they asked for an explanation as to why face masks aren’t compulsory in Sweden. When they did not get an answer, the King posited that ”nobody can explain it”. Anders Tegnell was quick to respond.
  • Several municipalities have seen a sharp increase in reports of concern that children are being mistreated during the pandemic. Due to Covid restrictions, it has in many cases not been possible to follow up the reports.
  • Global emissions fell by 9 percent in the first half of the year as a result of the pandemic. Whilst the reduction is historically large, it will have only a negligible impact on the slowdown in global warming.
  • Every third Swede is skeptical of a new vaccine, which is considered to be due to the failure of the swine flu vaccine, from which hundreds developed narcolepsy. This week it was also reported that once a vaccine does arrive in Sweden, children will be last in line, with at-risk groups first.
  • The Globe Arena in Stockholm has grown tired of being empty, and is being converted into a set of padel tennis courts. Not to be confused with paddle tennis; padel is a racquet game crossing a walled squash-style court with doubles’ tennis.
  • Anders Tegnell has appeared on children’s news program ‘Lilla Aktuellt’ using sign language, something that of course was immediately seized upon for memes:
Visa det här inlägget på Instagram

Tegnell has no chill

Ett inlägg delat av Meme Lord Jeki (@meme_lord_jeki)

And finally:

State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell’s remarkable popularity continues: this week he has been acclaimed by YouTuber Daniel Norberg (otherwise best known for his Swedish Eurovision Song Contest parodies) with his very own parody song:

That’s all for this week. If you think something’s missing, leave a comment!

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This article is written under the CC-BY license, and is free to share and republish as long as you link back here.

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