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Sweden — going for herd immunity and using the 1918 Flu plan

It’s a big natural experiment

Swedish people are still going to schools, restaurants and gyms. Even the cinemas are running.  Apparently Sweden is taking the punt that there are many asymptomatic infections out there, despite having no data, and not doing any structured screening to get some either.  They are also betting that immunity to this form of coronavirus will last a lot longer than the coronavirus colds where herd immunity is irrelevant one year later.

All recommendations are made by the Public Health Agency.  Apparently they are learning from the 1918 influenza spread, and thus successfully “fighting the last war”. Swedish doctors are reportedly not happy about it. Probably because their idea of being doctors is not where you choose which 60 year old mother lives and which one dies, or where the doctors work round the clock and many of them get sick themselves, and some die. Gruelling is not the word.

Gatherings of 50+ people are banned, and the 70+ age group have been told to avoid social contact.

I predict that as the ICU units overflow, or even before, they will move to serious measures like the rest of the world as the inhumanity of the inadequate care becomes obvious. They will be dragged into tightening the rules daily as curves flatten everywhere else, but theirs continues to rise. People will hate it.

See Norway for example which appears to have peaked on March 27th. They are getting on top of the load. Currently Sweden has 4,700 cases and about 240 deaths. But Norway with the same number of cases has only 43 deaths, suggesting Norway is doing a lot more testing, or has a younger caseload.

In the last few hours Swedish authorities have updated their recommendations to vaguely warn people off peak hour buses, to postpone sporting matches, and to tell shops not to let as many people in, but not to let them queue tightly outside either. It won’t be enough. Though Swedish people are doing a part lockdown anyway voluntarily with passenger numbers down 50%. And unlike Italy, they don’t live in multigenerational homes, where teens can come home and infect grandma. Astonishingly 50% of Swede households are single occupants.

But the numbers still climb:

Peaking, Daily New Cases, Coronavirus, graphs, Spain.



As Swedes watch other countries plateau, politically, they will not be able to allow their own death toll to rise without following suit. Those pressures are growing rapidly.

The Guardian

Panic, though, is exactly what many within Sweden’s scientific and medical community are starting to feel. A petition signed by more than 2,000 doctors, scientists, and professors last week – including the chairman of the Nobel Foundation, Prof Carl-Henrik Heldin – called on the government to introduce more stringent containment measures. “We’re not testing enough, we’re not tracking, we’re not isolating enough – we have let the virus loose,” said Prof Cecilia Söderberg-Nauclér, a virus immunology researcher at the Karolinska Institute. “They are leading us to catastrophe.”

Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, who is leading the government’s handling of the crisis, advocates a strategy of mitigation: allow the virus to spread slowly without overwhelming the health system, and without recourse to draconian restrictions.

The government thinks they can’t stop it, so they’ve decided to let people die,” Söderberg-Nauclér said. “They don’t want to listen to the scientific data that’s presented to them. They trust the Public Health Agency [Folkhälsomyndigheten] blindly, but the data they have is weak – embarrassing even.

Sweden has the lowest number of acute care beds (general hospital beds) per capita in Europe. Interestingly, second lowest acute care beds is the UK, then Denmark, Spain and Italy. The highest number per capita is Germany.

Sweden with 10 million people has only 550 ICU beds which is about 1 ICU bed per 18,000 people (compared to 1 per 12,000 in Australia).


Peaking, Daily New Cases, Coronavirus, graphs, Spain.

Hospital beds per 1,000 people in Europe

The definitions of hospital beds and ICU beds are probably different around the world. The US has the lowest number of hospital beds per capita, but almost the highest in the world of Intensive Care Beds (1 per 3,000).

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