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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Swedish reading skills fell in 2021 despite decision to keep schools open

The reading ability of year four students in Sweden dropped slightly more in the five years leading up to the end of 2021 than the average for other EU and OECD countries, despite the country's decision to keep schools open in the pandemic.

Swedish reading skills fell in 2021 despite decision to keep schools open

In latest Pirls reading comparison study, carried out in 2021, Swedish year four pupils scored a total of just 544 points, a sharp drop from the 555 points the country received in 2016 and only a little above the country’s worst ever result in 2011. 

But Sweden’s 12-point fall was only slightly worse than the 10-point fall seen in the other 65 EU and OECD countries which took part, with Swedish pupils as a whole still scoring above the EU and OECD average of 529 points, and even slightly above the 542 average for students in Denmark, Norway and Finland. 

At a press conference held to announce the result, Peter Fredriksson, the director-general of the Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket), put the fall in Swedish students’ reading skills down both to the impact of the pandemic and to an increase in the number of pupils who do not speak Swedish at home. 

“We have said previously that the pandemic affects learning most for the students with the lowest level of resources,” he said.

In the agency’s interpretation of the results, it said that it was impossible to measure the exact impact of the pandemic as all countries were affected. 

However, it said that as different countries had taken different measures that impacted on the education system in different ways, “the effect of the pandemic effect on the education systems of the different participating countries has probably not been the same”. 

Although Sweden kept schools open for the youngest students, education was severely affected for two months or more in about one in every three schools, with either short-term closures or widespread absences due to sickness. 

What Fredriksson said was for him “the most striking” element of the report, however, was the fall in the performance of the students with the most challenging backgrounds. 

These were responsible for almost all of Sweden’s fall in reading performance, with the students who received the highest results still reading at the same level as in 2001, when Sweden topped the Pirls ranking. 

“The number [of pupils] that are at the lowest level has never been higher and that is worrying,” he said. 

There was a 91 point difference between the pupils judged as having the highest level of resources at home and those judged as having the lowest level of resources, up from 73 in 2016. 

“We are concerned at the Swedish National Agency for Education that we have a segregated school system and shortcomings when it comes to equality between schools,” he said in a press statement. “This study confirms the picture we had earlier and even strengthens it.” 

Sweden remains above average when it comes to reading ability, coming seventh equal with Taiwan out of the 65 countries in the study, behind Singapore on 587, Hong Kong on 573, Russia on 567, England on 558, and Finland and Poland on 549. 

Sweden also beat Denmark and Norway, which both scored 539 points.