Article based on experience working as a doctor in the emergency room of one of the big hospitals in Stockholm, Sweden, and of living as a citizen in Sweden.
Unlike other countries, Sweden never went in to complete lockdown. Non-essential businesses have remained open, people have continues to go to cafés and restaurants, children have remained in school, and very few people have bothered with face masks in public.
COVID hit Stockholm like a storm in mid-March. One day I was seeing people with appendicitis and kidney stones, the usual things you see in the emergency room. The next day all those patients were gone and the only thing coming in to the hospital was COVID. Practically everyone who was tested had COVID, regardless of what the presenting symptom was. People came in with a nose bleed and they had COVID. They came in with stomach pain and they had COVID.
Then, after a few months, all the COVID patients disappeared.
At the peak three months back, a hundred people were dying a day of COVID in Sweden, a country with a population of ten million. We are now down to around five people dying per day in the whole country, and that number continues to drop. Since people generally die around three weeks after infection, that means virtually no-one is getting infected any more.
The risk of dying is at the very most 1 in 200 if you actually do get infected.
In total COVID has killed under 6,000 people in a country of ten million.
Sweden has an annual death rate of around 100,000 people. Considering that 70% of those who have died of COVID are over 80 years old, quite a few of those 6,000 would have died this year anyway.
COVID will never even come close to major pandemic numbers like 1918 flu.
If herd immunity hasn’t developed, where are all the sick people? Why has the rate of infection dropped so precipitously?
The reason we test for antibodies is because it is easy and cheap. Antibodies are in fact not the body’s main defence against virus infections. T-cells are. But T-cells are harder to measure than antibodies, so we don’t really do it clinically.
Sweden ripped the metaphorical band-aid off quickly and got the epidemic over and done with in a short amount of time, while the rest of the world has chosen to try to peel the band-aid off slowly.
I am willing to bet that the countries that have shut down completely will see rates spike when they open up. If that is the case, then there won’t have been any point in shutting down in the first place, because all those countries are going to end up with the same number of dead at the end of the day anyway. Shutting down completely in order to decrease the total number of deaths only makes sense if you are willing to stay shut down until a vaccine is available. That could take years.
COVID has at present killed less than 6000 in Sweden. It is very unlikely that the number of dead will go above 7,000. An average influenza year in Sweden, 700 people die of influenza. Does that mean COVID is ten times worse than influenza? No, because influenza has been around for centuries while COVID is completely new.
So it is quite possible, in fact likely, that the case fatality rate for COVID is the same as for influenza, or only slightly higher, and the entire difference we have seen is due to the complete lack of any immunity in the population at the start of this pandemic.
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