Coronavirus & Sweden — COVID Death Rate Now 10X Higher in Sweden than Norway

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Tantolunden park in Stockholm, Sweden, May 30, 2020 ( TT News Agency/Henrik Montgomery/Reuters)

There have now been ten times as many COVID-19 deaths in Sweden than Norway on a per capita basis.

According to the Worldometers website, 435 out of every one million Swedes have died from the virus, while the virus has killed 44 out of every million Norwegians.

Norway imposed a lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus early on March 12, but the country reopened schools early in May. “Our goal is that by June 15 we will have reopened most of the things that were closed,” Norway’s prime minister said at a press conference earlier this month.

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Its neighbor Sweden, by contrast, took a more lax approach: The government banned events with more than 50 people and shut down universities and secondary schools but imposed few other restrictions.

Swedish government officials said lockdowns could do little to save lives over the long term and that their more lax approach would let their society reach herd immunity more quickly and lessen the economic pain the country would endure. “About 30 percent of people in Stockholm have reached a level of immunity,” Karin Ulrika Olofsdotter, the Swedish ambassador to the United States, told NPR on April 26. “We could reach herd immunity in the capital as early as next month.”

But a recent study found that just 7.3 percent of Stockholm residents tested positive for coronavirus antibodies at the end of April. “I think herd immunity is a long way off, if we ever reach it,” Bjorn Olsen, professor of infectious medicine at Uppsala University, told Reuters.

And it’s not clear Sweden’s economy will be better off than Norway’s this year. “Economists at Swedish bank SEB estimate Sweden’s GDP will drop 6.5 per cent this year, about the same as the US and Germany, but a little better than Norway and ahead of 9–10 per cent falls in Finland and Denmark, all of which have had lockdowns,” the Financial Times reported May 10. A Reuters poll from April found economists predicting the Scandinavian economies would all fare about the same in 2020.

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