From the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Sweden made itself a convincing case study, which renounced lockdowns and mandates, kept its society largely open – and led to claims that it did better with COVID-19 than the United States.
Early on, we found that such statements were overrated. Now, almost a year and a half later, as the delta variant of the virus nails down, the claims have recurred.
Referring to the 27-nation European Union, which includes Sweden, Deace wrote:
“In July, Sweden registered a total of 9 deaths with Covid in a nation of over 10 million. Lowest worm compliance in the EU, least locked countries in the EU from the beginning, and only 41% fully vaccinated. Also encodes Covid deaths that are similar to how we do.”
The Post has a point regarding its characterization of Sweden’s response to the pandemic, its vaccination rate and a relatively small number of deaths in covid-19 in July.
But cherry picking one statistique – the raw number of deaths in a single month – leaves a misleading impression of conditions and trends in Sweden.
Asked if he suggested that there was a link between the death in July and Sweden’s low vaccination levels, relaxed locking rules and low mask compliance, Deace told us: “I actually trust readers to draw their own conclusions from the data.”
How Sweden is different
Unlike some of its neighbors and the United States, Swedish society has largely remained open during the pandemic, as the government mostly responded with guidelines, not domicile orders and quarantine. Masks were generally not recommended.
In April 2020, weeks after the outbreak was declared a pandemic, we looked at two statements that identified Sweden’s more practical approach as superior to the shutdown policy introduced in Europe and the United States. We found that the rate of infection stated in one of these claims was not a reliable indicator of how a country was doing, given that it depended on how much testing was done; and that Sweden’s covid-19 deaths were higher than two of its neighbors.
As of 4 August, 42% of Sweden’s population was fully vaccinated; it can be compared to 49% in the US and 50% in the EU, according to to our world in data. Sweden guidelines emphasize staying at home, testing, hand washing and social distancing.
We found that Sweden’s deaths in covid-19 in July 2021 were slightly higher than the nine that the post claims. Sweden had 14,630 covid-19 deaths on July 1, 2021 and 14,655 on July 31-an increase of 25, according to to our world in data.
How the post is misleading
The post only looks at deaths in July 2021. But Sweden has seen large variations in the number of covid-19 cases and the number of deaths since last year.
In April 2021, there were signs that Sweden’s approach had shortcomings. At that time, the New Yorker reported, Sweden’s number per capita and the number of deaths were many times higher than any of its Nordic neighbors, who all introduced lockdowns, travel bans and limited gatherings early.
The latest figures show that Sweden’s deaths due to COVID-19 are lower than in the EU and the US – but it has more than doubled in the last 10 months.
Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s best epidemiologist, told PolitiFact that the death toll has risen in many countries. “We have had two severe waves. The excess mortality rate is comparatively low,” he said.
Excessive mortality, as defined by the World Health Organization, is the difference between the observed number of deaths and the expected number of deaths over a given period of time.
Our world in data measure of the seven-day rolling average of covid-19 deaths per 1 million people shows that Sweden had higher nails than those in the EU and the US at several points during the pandemic, including early 2020 and early 2021. And for most of this year, its confirmed cases per capita has exceeded the figures for the United States and the European Union.
In total, Sweden’s covid-19 deaths are 142.5 per 100,000 inhabitants well and good over neighbors Denmark (43.89), Finland (17.84), Norway (15.03) and Iceland (8.3), according to to Johns Hopkins University.
In terms of infections, after a wave in the spring of 2021, Sweden saw its infection rate fall, which officials mainly attributed to vaccinations and that people were more outdoors, Reuters reported.
But now it is increasing again.
In the last week ReportOn 5 August, the Swedish Public Health Agency reported 3451 confirmed cases of COVID-19, an increase of 30% compared to the previous week.
Deace claims that Sweden had few COVID deaths in July, despite low vaccination levels, relaxed locking rules and low mask compliance.
Sweden has introduced fewer restrictions than other countries and had few deaths in July, but its covid-19 mortality rate has been across the US and EU at different times during the pandemic. Sweden has had more deaths from covid-19 per capita than its neighbors, and infections are increasing.
Posten cherries picks data from a single month and leaves a significant context about Sweden’s covid-19 experience since the pandemic began.
We rate the statement Half True.