Sweden records the most new coronavirus cases in the EU

For the first time this year, Sweden's rate of coronavirus cases has topped European Union figures but associated deaths are among the lowest.

A sign in Stockholm in March.
A sign in Stockholm in March. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

The country had a 14-day-notification rate of 577 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. 

Passing one million cases in early May, Sweden has been near the top, just after Cyprus, for weeks with new cases subsiding faster in the rest of Europe. Sweden saw a peak in mid-April with a 14-day-notification rate of over 800 cases per 100,000 people.

“Many countries in Europe have been at considerably higher levels than what we are seeing now, so it’s probably more about Sweden had a fairly late surge in this hopefully last third wave,” state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told a press conference, lamenting that the caseload was still higher than last summer.

The Scandinavian country has never imposed the type of lockdown seen elsewhere in Europe, controversially relying on mostly non-coercive measures. It has gradually tightened restrictions since November, including a ban on alcohol sales after 8pm and on public gatherings of more than eight people.

Since March, cafes, bars and restaurants have also been required to shut by 8.30pm.

The 14-day-notification for deaths however was much lower than many other countries, with 12 cases per million inhabitants. In comparison, Hungary and Croatia saw death rates of 133 and 128 per million inhabitants respectively.

The total number of deaths associated with Covid-19 since the start of pandemic reached 14,351 on Thursday, putting Sweden in the middle of the pack in Europe, although well ahead of Nordic neighbours Finland, Norway and Denmark.

Mortality statistics also show that Sweden had a lower than average excess mortality in 2020, compared to the rest of Europe.

The chart below from Our World in Data compares Sweden’s infection rate to the EU average and the eight other countries covered by The Local, and you can add further countries to the chart for comparison.

Member comments

  1. And why wouldn’t it have? Apart from a few masks here and there Swedes clearly couldn’t give less of a shit about COVID. Restaurants are packed every day, streets are full of people, groups of Swedes circlehugging each other every time they meet. Vaccination is slower than anywhere else. I mean, Russia has vaccinated it’s population now. Russia! While a country with half the population of just Russia’s capital but 10x higher taxes cannot vaccinate its people who at the same time want to have no restraint. So why does it surprise anyone?

    1. Alex, clearly you haven’t bothered reading the article, nor have you looked up any statistics on your claims about russia. Per Reuters: Russia has administered at least 24,862,902 doses of COVID vaccines so far. Assuming every person needs 2 doses, that’s enough to have vaccinated about 8.6% of the country’s population.
      Stop spreading your baseless theories.
      Furthermore, the article above states that excess dealths in Sweden were below European average in FY20, indicating that they have better managed covid than other countries in Europe. Sure our neighbours have better statistics, but long/hard lockdowns havent worked everywhere.

      1. I never said Russia vacinated its entire population. But vaccination is open there. To get vaccinated is a matter of going to your local vaccination spot and getting a shot. A process that will take maybe one hour of your time. Not everyone chooses to do so, yes, it’s a different question, and a much larger population. Still, 8.6% of Russia’s population is about the entire population of Sweden.

        1. Alex, I subscribe to the first part of your message: I am the only idiot on the bus wearing the mask. Clearly the narrative here is that COVID is not that big thing, and people adapted to that. However I don’t follow the statement about Russia. I think they are pretty low in vaccination rates, whereas the number of doses / capita in Sweden is more or less in the range of the EU countries, 32% … roughly.
          On a general line, I am appalled by the Pilatesque position of the government, giving vague indications about personal protection (I wonder how many fragile lives could have been spared if the use of mask would have been a bit more solid and well defined), without taking any responsibly. The organization in vaccine distribution is disappointing: the problem in my opinion is not the regional basis, rather the dis uniformity in the “actors” doing it. I cannot count the number of times I have to digit my personnumer or activate my bankID every day, just to be told all the slots are gone.
          About the number of deaths … how many now? 14000? scale wrt UK or Italy population (66, 60 M). We get 84000/85000 casualties. Is it really so good? yes compared to the aforementioned case (~125K), no if you compare to, say, the other Nordic countries. Put it this way: considering the low level of protection, yes, it is a miracle this is not a carnage.

  2. Sweden are pretty much up with the EU average for vaccinations. About 42% adults one dose and 13% fully vaccinated. And that’s why there has been no 3rd wave of deaths despite the case numbers. I sense most people here have switched off worrying so much about Covid since the elderly got vaccinated and the headlines about terrible death numbers disappeared. Not ideal for healthcare workers in busy hospitals but that’s also coming down now.

    By summer this is over for Sweden.

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