Sweden’s Covid-19 death rate is higher than Norway and Finland – here’s what the country did differently

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Swedish flag, Sweden
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  • In recent weeks, the number of coronavirus-related deaths in Sweden has continued to climb, making its per-capita death rate six times higher than that of neighbouring Norway and Finland.
  • Though Sweden borders and shares strong cultural ties with Norway and Finland, it has taken a much more relaxed approach to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
  • Norway and Finland enacted country-wide lockdowns in mid-March, limiting public gatherings to five and 10 people respectively. Neighbouring Swedes, meanwhile, have been free to congregate at bars and parks in groups of 50 or less.
  • Due to a decline in new infections, Norway began easing its coronavirus restrictions last week.
  • While the uptick in Sweden's coronavirus-related deaths has prompted criticism, chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell maintains that his country's approach will be "much more sustainable" than others in the long run.
  • For mores stories go to

Sweden has taken a far more relaxed approach to curb the spread of the coronavirus than neighboring Norway and Finland, resulting in significantly more fatalities.

Source: Business Insider, Our World in Data

Whereas Norway and Finland instituted lockdowns in mid-March and have seen their number of coronavirus deaths per capita plateau, Sweden has seen its death rate climb.

Source: Business Insider, Our World in Data

As of April 28, 2,274 people have died from the coronavirus in Sweden, making its per-capita death rate nearly six times higher than that of Norway and Finland.

Source: Our World in Data, Our World in Data

While Sweden has passed a few restrictive measures, its residents have for the most part been free to live their lives.

Sweden has banned gatherings of 50 or more people, closed high schools and universities, and restricted nursing home visits.

Source: Business Insider, Reuters, Government Offices of Sweden

However, restaurants, bars, and cafés remain open as long as they observe social distancing and only serve seated customers.

Source: Business Insider

Kindergarten and primary schools are still holding in-person classes ...

Source: Reuters, Business Insider

... and many shops have stayed open for business.

Source: Business Insider

Group fitness classes have still been taking place ...

Source: Business Insider

... and hair salons have continued to offer their services.

Source: Business Insider

Sweden's approach is a product of its high-trust culture, according to chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell. "We are more into nudging: continuously reminding people to use measures," he told Nature.

Source: Nature, Reuters

Norway, by contrast, went into lockdown on March 13 beginning with school closures. The following day, it advised against public gatherings of five or more people.

Source: Government of Norway, The Local, Norwegian Institute of Public Health

The country also asked residents to stay home, shut down businesses that required close physical contact, and closed community spaces such as fitness centers, bars, and restaurants.

Source: The Local, Government of Norway, Government of Norway

Finland enacted similar lockdown measures beginning March 17, though limited public gatherings to 10 people and kept day care and pre-primary schools open.

Source: Government of Finland

When announcing the first phase of restrictions in March, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said they were "the most far-reaching measures Norway's population has ever experienced in peacetime."

Source: The Local

The country even banned travel to second homes, prohibiting urban residents from self-isolating in their country cabins and instituting a fine of 15,000 kr (R28,000) for anyone caught doing so.

Source: Reuters, Government of Norway

Sweden's increasing number of coronavirus deaths has drawn criticism: On April 14, 22 academics penned a letter to a Stockholm newspaper calling upon officials to change course "with swift and radical measures."

Source: Bloomberg, Dagens Nyheter

The World Health Organisation has also urged Sweden to reconsider its tactics.

Source: CNN

Tegnell maintains that his country's approach will be "much more sustainable" than others in the long run by avoiding a second wave of infections that could follow the easing of lockdown measures.

Source: Associated Press, Business Insider

Norway is beginning that process this week, and Finland is eyeing reopening in May.

Source: Associated Press, Government of Norway, Reuters

Norwegian children in kindergarten and primary school resumed in-person classes on April 20

Source: Government of Norway

... and Norwegians can travel to their cabins again. Beginning this week, salons and other businesses that provide "one-to-one contact" can open as long as they follow sanitation guidelines.

Source: Government of Norway

Whether or not Norway will be able to contain the spread of the virus as it reopens remains to be seen. "We must do this little by little, and we must be very cautious," Solberg said in an April 15 conference.

Source: Government of Norway

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