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 49.
That’s more deaths in a single week than Norway has had during the whole pandemic.
Most of the reported deaths did not actually occur in the last week, which isn’t good news as it probably means that we will see the death toll continue to rise. According to Adam Altmejd’s algorithm, we’re now up to just over 75 deaths per day.
Societal spread of infection continues to rise, but the curve is looking less sharp. For the most recently reported full week, week 48, there weren’t as many reports of problems in testing capacity from Sweden’s regional health administrations. A weekly record has also been broken in the number of tests carried out: 275,712.
Light purple: number of people tested; dark purple: analysed tests
X-axis: week / Y-axis: number
Unfortunately, there are also a record number of confirmed cases, a total of 36,675 – 13.3 percent – of those tested. In total, Sweden has now passed a quarter of a million confirmed cases.
Figure 1C: Number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 per week, split between testing among priority groups (shown in gray), and mass testing (purple).
At the same time, there are some interesting breaks in certain trends. First, and slightly oddly: the age group 20-29 no longer tops the infection charts. As of two weeks ago, the age group 40-49 is instead highest, followed by 30-39.
Figure 2A: number of confirmed cases per week, by age group (cases per 100,000 pop.) from week 30 until the currently reported week.
X-axis: week / Y-axis: cases per 100,000 pop.
Even more good news comes in the form of the figures from the middle of week 49, which show the number of hospital admissions decreasing! Last week I wrote that hospitalizations had reached a level equivalent to the height of the spring peak, but instead of surpassing the spring numbers, this week we look to be trending downwards. It is still too early to say whether this is a temporary decline.
It remains clear that several regional health administrations are still dealing with extremely high pressure, especially in regions that were spared the worst in the spring. In the southern region of Skåne, for example, there are three times as many patient admissions and it is feared that the peak will not be reached until around Christmas.
The situation remains severe, and even though the rate of infection is slowing, a number experts believe that there may be a new, third wave after New Year. Next week, the Swedish Public Health Agency is expected to present new detailed advice ahead of the Christmas holidays, but it has already been revealed that we can expect tougher measures for employers so that they make it easier for their employees to work from home.
To further curb the spread infection, upper secondary schools will be closed from Monday of week 50. The closure is in place until 6 January, with students practicing remote learning, as in the spring. Elementary schools continue to be open as usual, and state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell believes that outbreaks in lower secondary schools are much fewer in number than in upper secondary schools. (Read more in Swedish about the spread of infection in school environments). That older schoolchildren in particular are spreading the infection is also clear in the Public Health Agency’s own data:
Even for the youngest children, there are new measures: if a parent is infected, the child may no longer go to preschool. I wrote about this last week, and outlined how the problem is not the spread of infection, but the workload in finding time to implement an ‘airlock’ process for safely welcoming specific children of infected parents. Teachers’ unions see the new measures as a victory. Speaking of recommendations for children, there may be new guidelines as soon as next week allowing older children, born before 2005, to exercise outdoors together.
Elsewhere, most of the week’s news has centered around vaccines. We’re edging ever closer, although there is still no approved vaccine for the EU or Sweden. The vaccine will be free in Sweden and will be given first to elderly people who are sick, and to staff in nursing homes: a total of 600,000 people. In total, Sweden has 2.6 million people in risk groups, but before Easter, it is estimated that there will only be 2 million available doses. There are also problems in not yet knowing which vaccine it will be (although the UK’s approval of Pfizer’s vaccine this week is an indicator) or how it can be stored. Only one region has a completed plan. Many are still concerned about the safety of the vaccine, but Sweden’s vaccine coordinator said this week that those who are worried can ”wait and see”, as it will take a long time before healthy citizens will be offered the vaccine. At the same time, there is no alternative to vaccination for Sweden and the rest of the world: if too low a proportion of the populace are vaccinated, pandemic restrictions will have to last for several years. The Prime Minister has announced that he will be taking the vaccine, in line with the established order of priority.
Three opinion articles have been particularly widespread this week:
- ”Measures against the pandemic are the biggest mass hysteria ever”, says chief physician Sven Roman.
- ”I’ll be bankrupt in a month and will have to sell my home”, says musical star Philip Jalmelid.
- ”Sweden’s anti-lockdown flopped”, writes the Washington Post (and there’s a similar report in the WSJ).
This week’s news in brief:
- Anders Tegnell said this week that one reason why Sweden has so many more deaths could be Sweden’s large immigrant population ”who have been advancing the virus”. Afterwards, he withdrew the statement and said that it was not about immigrants “advancing” but rather ”suffering from” the virus.
- A big story this week was that young people have been organizing ”corona parties” to get infected and become immune before next summer, so that they might celebrate their graduation from upper secondary school in traditional fashion. The news turned out to be mostly hearsay, and police have closed the investigation.
- Pregnant women and new mothers are more worried about the coronavirus than those in risk groups. This is shown by new Swedish research published this week.
- The government announced an additional 300 billion kronor for businesses, to help with liquidity problems.
- The WHO has intensified its advice on face masks, recommending wearing them indoors if the quality of ventilation is unclear, but also outdoors in crowded spaces. Sweden has yet to recommend wearing a mask.
- This week, the Swedish Public Health Agency explained why they decided not to make any exceptions for those confirmed as having antibodies.
Tegnell-mania is still going strong, despite the increase in cases. A crêperie in the ski resort of Åre decided to create their own special festive tribute: a lifesize gingerbread version of Tegnell. It took nine hours to make, and stands six feet tall.
That’s all for this week, let me know in the comments if you think there’s something missing!
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