Scandinavian COVID

Sweden has taken a lot of heat for their COVID19 responses, or lack thereof, and so I thought I’d look at the data to see if I could come to any sort of conclusion.


Sweden is experience a linear growth of COVID19 cases. What this means is debatable, because steady growth in confirmed cases can be a result of maxing out total testing capability at a fixed rate, which creates a linear growth rate. So we can’t use that chart as a smoking gun to make a determination that Sweden’s approach of no major lockdown choice as “good” or “bad.”


Finland, unlike Sweden, implemented a lockdown. The linear trend is similar to that of Sweden, although the numbers are smaller, the trend is essentially the same, and it is unlikely that this trend represents a maxing out of testing ability.


Iceland’s curve looks like they’ve hit a critical point where enough of the population is either immune or isolated that the spread has been naturally curtailed. This makes sense as Iceland has just one major city, and even though Iceland did not do a lockdown but allows anyone to get tested, catching many of the asymptomatic. Of course the entire population of Iceland is less than 365,000 souls trapped in pretty unique geography, so it’s not a good model for anyone else.


Norway looks like their lockdown is starting to pay off, with a slight reduction from one linear growth rate to a smaller linear growth rate. Norway initiated a lockdown, but has started to ease restrictions.


Denmark, the last of the five Scandinavian countries, also has a linear growth rate.  Denmark chose a lockdown which it has started easing.

Conclusions? Draw your own at this point. The different geography and testing factors of each country leave me with the “fuzzy data” problem where people who are “pro-lockdown” can pick and choose the data they want to illustrate that lockdowns have some effect, while the “anti-lockdown” people can choose from the same data set to show no significant change in rate of increase between Sweden and Finland (no lockdown vs. lockdown) and Iceland and Norway (no lockdown vs. lockdown). But that’s cherry picking data to support an opinion as opposed to analyzing data looking for truth. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that the effect of a lockdown is probably not worth the pain of a lockdown given this data set. However Scandinavia isn’t really a good proxy for any other country in the world, so I can’t say that the United States, Canada, or Brazil should take any particular Scandinavian approach.

I believe that we won’t have a real good data set to mine until this time next year. By then we’ll be able to see whether COVID changed the overall death rate for any given country for the year.  For COVID to actually matter the country must have a death rate significantly higher than a previous year, right now so many other high mortality conditions are associated with COVID that we might see a serious reduction in heart, lung, cancer, and other normal deaths because of classification as COVID caused. We’ll also not have a good feel for the economic impact of COVID since a lockdown in one country disrupts the global supply chain. Even without a lockdown Saab in Sweden had to furlough workers for about two weeks because suppliers in other countries couldn’t ship parts to Sweden as they were in lockdown.


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