Increased deaths because of COVID-19 in Sweden blamed on lack of lockdown

Researchers have shown through a study that the increase in deaths in Sweden because of Covid-19 is because of absence of lock down during COVID-19.

While Sweden’s measures may have saw fewer patients admitted to intensive-care units than expected, the measures are to blame for higher percentage of COVID-19 deaths in older patients outside ICUs than other countries when ICU beds were not limited. This indicates that health authorities there have considered patients’ chances of recovery in deciding who receives access to intensive care, the researchers say.

Scientists set out to analyze the effects of the country’s public-health response using population, employment and household data. They say the insights gained from their work can guide future public-health policies. In particular, the findings will help doctors understand the effects of individual compliance with infection-control measures.

The researchers conclude that Sweden’s “mild” government restrictions, coupled with a population willing to voluntarily self-isolate, produced results quite similar to those seen in countries that enacted more stringent measures later in the pandemic.

Sweden’s per capita death rate was 35 per 100,000 as of May 15. Meanwhile, Denmark’s death rate was 9.3 per 100,000, Finland’s 5.2 and Norway’s 4.7. All three neighboring countries enacted stricter policies. For comparison, the United States had 24 COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 as of May 15. But Sweden has fared better than hard-hit countries such as the United Kingdom and Spain.

While it did not opt for full lockdown, Sweden took several steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The researchers created computer models to measure the effects of these steps, including voluntary self-isolation by symptomatic people and those over 70, closing schools and other interventions. They then validated their results by comparing the models with Sweden’s death rate and compared Sweden’s results to other countries’.

The researchers’ models anticipated that Sweden’s public-health mandates would result in 40 times more patients needing ICU beds than the number of ICU beds available before the pandemic. Voluntary self-isolation reduced this to five-fold, and the country essentially doubled its number of ICU beds as the pandemic emerged.

That still leaves many patients without a bed, however, and yet the country’s ICUs weren’t overrun. That outcome – and the fact older patients in Sweden were several times more likely to die than to be admitted to an ICU – prompted the researchers to analyze choices that Swedish health authorities made about who would receive intensive care.

The researchers have published their analysis of Sweden’s COVID-19 deaths in the scientific journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.