Sweden's No-Lockdown COVID Numbers are Even Better Than They Look

AP Photo/Paul Sancya
AP featured image
Barber Karl Manke, of Owosso, gives a free haircut to Parker Shonts on the steps of the State Capitol during a rally in Lansing, Mich., Wednesday, May 20, 2020. from the new coronavirus COVID-19. Barbers and hair stylists are protesting the state’s stay-at-home orders, a defiant demonstration that reflects how salons have become a symbol for small businesses that are eager to reopen two months after the COVID-19 pandemic began. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)


In case you hadn’t heard, Sweden is one of the very few western nations that didn’t respond to COVID-19 by imposing any lockdowns.

Given the obvious hardship, misery, and death lockdowns bring, Sweden’s leaders decided it made more sense to just isolate the sick and elderly. They let the infection burn through the strong and healthy members of their population at its normal rate instead of trying to slow it down and thereby delaying herd immunity.

Way back in May, I pointed out that, if lockdowns were effective, Sweden’s neighbors would see a dramatic increase in cases after opening back up.

Lockdowns, at best, only slow down the rate of infection. They don’t reduce the number required to reach herd immunity and, hence, only serve to increase the amount of time the virus lingers.

The point of locking down is to make sure hospitals don’t get overrun by a surge of new cases on any given day, not to decrease the number of people ultimately infected.

(Since neither Sweden nor U.S hospitals were ever in danger of being overrun, we know lockdowns accomplished nothing without even looking at the numbers. But the amount of misinformation about Sweden being bandied about makes it worth doing anyway.)

In fact, if a nation that went into lockdown doesn’t experience a dramatic increase in cases after opening back up, that means shutting down failed to do what it was supposed to and the virus continued to spread at its normal rate.

The upshot is that it made no sense to compare Sweden’s numbers to their neighbors’ until the virus ran its course.

As my colleague Brandon Morse reported Friday, it looks like bothering to read what the experts proposing lockdowns actually said they were supposed to accomplish may have paid off.

Sweden’s Herd Immunity Pays Off, Sees Sharp Decline In COVID Cases While the Rest of Us Cower

Europe is seeing another surge in Coronavirus cases with the exception of Sweden who is still seeing a marked decline since June.

But a Twitter researcher who goes by the name El Gato Malo (The Bad Cat) did a thread that’s essential reading for anyone who wants to understand whether Sweden made the right choice.

It turns out their COVID numbers are incredibly good even independently of the fact that they seem to be avoiding the recent spike in cases that lockdown nations are experiencing.

Moreover, there are differences in the criteria for counting COVID-19 deaths which cast a very different light on some of the comparisons being made.

To start by considering Sweden’s numbers in isolation, their COVID fatalities were almost entirely restricted to the elderly. 88% were over 70 and 75% were in nursing homes or elder care. Only 4.5% of fatalities were under 60.

Sweden had less than 500 reported COVID fatalities under 70, just 12% of the total.

Before the “even one death is too many” crowd starts accusing me of being a heartless monster, they might want to take a look in the mirror.

A recent report from the British government estimates that in just a single year lockdowns may cause 200,000 deaths from depriving people of medical care for ailments other than COVID-19 alone.

Britain has around 6 times Sweden’s population. But even dividing the British number by 20 gives you 10,000 deaths.

That’s 20 times those 500 people under the age of 70 that Sweden reported as succumbing to COVID-19 and almost twice their total for all ages.

Moreover, it’s very unlikely that the real death toll in Sweden is anywhere close to the number they’re reporting. Like the U.S., Sweden’s criteria for counting COVID-19 deaths are so loose that they’re bound to be including a lot of people who would’ve died regardless of the virus.

As Johan Norberg pointed out way back in April, 

Sweden systematically checks the list of people who have tested positive for the virus against the population register. Every time the government discovers that someone who had the virus has died, that person is registered as a COVID-19 death if it happened within 30 days of the diagnosis.

It doesn’t matter what they died of — could be a heart attack, cancer or even a car accident.

People keep contrasting Sweden’s COVID fatality numbers with Norway’s.

Given that Sweden’s reported deaths from the virus likely dwarf the number of citizens they would have killed with a lockdown, such comparisons are just scary-sounding panic-porn that have no bearing on the wisdom of Sweden’s decision.

But as Norberg also pointed out to the apparently deaf ears of all those pushing the Norway comparison anyway:

Even in a culturally and geographically similar country like Norway—celebrated for its low death rate—they do things differently. The Norwegians only count something as a COVID-19 death if a doctor concludes that someone was killed by the disease and decides to report it to the country’s public health authority.

There’s a general lesson here. The data we’re getting is pretty much all garbage considered on its own and is worse than garbage when used for comparative purposes. The only thing that matters in evaluating whether lockdowns are worth their tremendous death toll is how many people would still be alive if not for contracting COVID-19.

And absolutely no one seems to have any interest in even figuring that out, let alone in telling us.

But, speaking of Norway, instead of comparing stats compiled using completely different criteria, maybe we should listen to what the Norwegians are saying. The head of their version of America’s CDC has made a startling admission:

“Our assessment now….is that we could possibly have achieved the same effects and avoided some of the unfortunate impacts by not locking down, but by instead keeping open but with infection control measures,”

Hearing a director of some government agency defend one of their policies doesn’t mean a whole lot. Neither bureaucrats nor anyone else for that matter are likely to admit they’ve made a terrible mistake. But when that’s exactly what they’re doing, people ought to listen. And Camille Stoltenberg deserves to be commended in the highest possible terms for doing so.

Finally, it’s kind of hard to argue that COVID-19 has been some kind of a disaster for the Swedes given that they’ve actually had fewer overall fatalities than normal.


So all those Covidian Cult members celebrating the deadly plague their god brought down on Sweden for not heeding cult rituals by killing thousands of Swedes with a sacrificial lockdown couldn’t be more off base.

Might be time to start looking for a new religion.

Or better yet, they could start following the science.



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