Shutdown deniers have held up Sweden's approach as a model response that will spare economic damage, but signs are emerging that the Swedish model may have been a bad idea. For example:
Sweden Resorts To Storing Bodies At Ice-Rinks As COVID-19 Deaths Soar
When was the last "regular flu season" you recall during which bodies of the deceased were stored at ... ice rinks? The reason for this is that flu deaths occur over a period of 7-8 months, while COVID pandemic deaths are occuring over a matter of weeks in many countries--including the US, of course. I imagine the presence of dead bodies in ice rinks must be rather inconvenient--not to say disconcerting--for non-social distancing Swedish skating enthusiasts! Watch out for Granny when you come out of that spin! And, by the way, that's happening in Stockholm, the capital, not in some country town:
On Thursday, Sweden reported another rise in the daily death rate, with the virus now killing at least 100 people for the second day in a row, raising the total number of dead to 792. Total cases in the country now exceed 9,100, with the hospital system in Stockholm overwhelmed with patients and dead bodies.
Swedish authorities have resorted to storing bodies in "refrigerated shipping containers, ice rinks, and canteen fridges," reported RT News.
The massive influx of virus-related deaths has overflowed morgues with bodies, and crematoriums cannot keep up.
Hospital systems in Gothenburg and Stockholm are renting out ice rinks, refrigerated containers, and cold storage facilities to house bodies in April.
"The big bottleneck is our mortuary that is not designed for such a large city that we are in. It is then important for relatives to arrange the funerals so that the deceased become coffin-bound and thus can come over to the cemetery administration," said Katarina Evenseth, the funeral director in Gothenburg.
Could you please arrange the funeral ASAP so we can get your dearly departed the hell out of the ice rink?
What's going on? I think an examination of stats at Worldometer may tell the story. In the tables that follow, remember that Sweden's total population is pretty much equal to the combined population of Norway and Denmark--which instituted strict social distancing some time ago.
So, first of all, let's look at
Total Cases New Cases Total Deaths New Deaths Serious-Critical
Sweden: 9,685 +544 870 +77 749
Norway: 6,298 +79 112 +4 70
Denmark: 5,819 +184 247 +10 113
What should jump out from this table is that Sweden, with about 2.5K fewer cases, has twice the new cases, well over twice the deaths, well over five times the new deaths, and over four times the number of serious/critical cases. By any measure Sweden is doing far worse than Norway and Denmark combined: lots more deaths, lots more new cases, and lots more critical care cases--all with significantly fewer total cases. And this is a relatively recent development, which is the way pandemics develop--in the blink of an eye.
But the question is, how to explain these discrepancies? Why do fewer cases in Sweden yield more deaths, more critical cases, and an accelerating case count? Given roughly equal quality of healthcare, shouldn't the numbers be about the same?
The answer is in the testing. Relative to other countries, Sweden hasn't bothered to do much testing. In a pandemic, testing is a bit like taking the pulse of your country. If you do a fair amount of testing you have a fair idea of the progress of the disease through the population. You'll be aware of trends. On the other hand, if you don't bother doing much testing you'll become aware of the disease's progress through your population when--all of a sudden--you end up using ice rinks to store dead bodies. You don't see the trend until it smacks you upside the head. That's what's happening in Sweden now.
We can see this from Worldometer's tests per million figures--Norway and Denmark, whose combined populations equal that of Sweden, have done over five times as many tests:
Tests per 1M Popoulation
What's going on here, I think, is that Sweden tests only those people who are very obviously ill. The reality, I suspect, is far different: Sweden probably has many, many more instances of COVID infection, which is being spread by people with only minor symptoms, than its total case number indicates. But spreaders with minor symptoms leads to a greater pool of infected persons, that can lead to serious illness and death in that larger pool of infected persons. That's why you want to prevent spread of infection in a pandemic, even when the mortality rate is relatively low--if it happens fast enough, it leads to a collapse of healthcare. And that explains the suddenly worsening stats, accelerating in an alarming way, in Sweden.
Hey, maybe I'm wrong. If so, anyone who wants can say they told me so.
UPDATE: I don't like number crunching, and that's what it would take to compare Sweden to the US. However, a quick glance at a sort of bottom line state does lead one to believe that the US is doing substantially better than Sweden. That bottom line stat is--Deaths Per 1M Population: US - 56, Sweden - 86.
In fairness, both Sweden and the US are doing quite a bit better than many Western European countries, including in no particular order: Italy, Spain, France, UK, Belgium, Netherlands, and Switzerland. Still, the US was late to the pandemic and it's likely--in my opinion--that Sweden was, too. A comparison of Sweden and the US when all is said and done may tell us something about the wisest approach.