Covid deaths in Sweden ‘set to rise in coming weeks’

The Public Health Agency of Sweden has warned that the number of weekly Covid deaths is set to rise, after the number of people testing positive for the virus rose for the sixth week running.

Covid deaths in Sweden 'set to rise in coming weeks'
Annelie Carlander, a unit chief at the Swedish Public Health Agency, said that the weekly death rate from Covid-19 was likely to rise. Photo: Public Health Agency of Sweden

According to the agency, an average of 27 people have died with or from the virus a week over the past three weeks. 

“According to our analyses, the number who died in week 27 (July 4th-July 11th), is more than died in week 26 and we expect this to continue to grow,” the agency wrote in a report issued on Thursday. 

In the week ending July 17th (week 28), 4,700 new cases of Covid-19 were registered, a 22 percent rise on the previous week. 

“We are seeing rising infection levels of Covid-19 which means that there will be more people admitted to hospital, and even more who die with Covid-19,”  said Anneli Carlander, a unit chief at the agency. “The levels we are seeing now are higher than they were last summer, but we haven’t reached the same level we saw last winter when omicron was spreading for the first time.” 

While 27 deaths a week with for from Covid-19 is a rise on the low levels seen this spring, it is well below the peak death rate Sweden saw in April 2020, when more than 100 people were dying a day. 

The number of Covid deaths recorded each week this summer. Source. Public Health Agency of Sweden
A graph of Covid deaths per day since the start of the pandemic shows that the current death rate, while alarming, remains low. Photo: Public Health Agency of Sweden

Carlander said that cases were rising among those in sheltered accommodation for the elderly, and also elderly people given support in their own homes, groups which are recommended to get tested for the virus if they display symptoms. The infection rate among those given support in their homes has risen 40 percent on last week. 

This week there were also 12 new patients admitted to intensive care units with Covid-19 in Sweden’s hospitals.  

The increase has come due to the new BA.5 variant of omicron, which is better able to infect people who have been vaccinated or already fallen ill with Covid-19. Vaccination or a past infection does, however, give protection against serious illness and death. 

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Sharp rise in number of Covid-19 patients in Stockholm

The number of patients being treated for Covid-19 in Stockholm has risen rapidly over the last week, the local regional health authority has warned in a press release.

Sharp rise in number of Covid-19 patients in Stockholm

According to Region Stockholm, as many as 217 patients were being treated with Covid-19 on Tuesday, an increase of 43 on the week earlier. Of those roughly half are in hospital due to the severity of their Covid-19 infection, with the remaining half testing positive while being treated in hospital for another reason. 

“Taking care of 217 patients in an infection-safe way demands much larger resources from the healthcare system,”  Elda Sparrelid, the region’s chief doctor, said in a press release. “The situation is so stretched that we today had an emergency meeting of head doctors to check that we can use all of the healthcare systems resources as efficiently as possible.” 

She said that the rising number of Covid patients would inevitably lead to a rising number of staff sent home due to infection, increasing staffing shortages. 

She called on everyone in the Stockholm Region who has yet to take their third booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine to get vaccinated as soon as possible. 

“At the same time around four in ten of those who are over 18 have yet to take their third dose,” she said. “The protection you get from the vaccine reduces with time, and reduces particularly fast for the elderly, that’s why it’s essential that you take all the doses you are eligible for.”

She said that the current stretched system would mean longer waiting times for those without an acute need of care, even though this would mean “frustration” for patients who are in pain, and worry for their loved ones. 

Of the Covid-19 patients in the region, four were in intensive care, 132 in normal hospital, and 81 in geriatic ward outside the acute care hospital.