The Czechs and the Swedes – the tale of two Covid-strategies
This is the number of new daily deaths from/with Covid-19 in Sweden and the Czech Republic.
The two countries are similar in many ways – the population is just over 10 million in both countries; the average age is around 41 and the number of elderly people as share of the population is also pretty much the same (3-4% of the population is over 80 years old).
Life expectancy in Sweden, however, is 82 years while it is 79 years in the Czech Republic.
The immigrant population in Sweden is much larger as share of the population than is the case in the Czech Republic.
These two factors make it more likely that Sweden will see more Covid-19 deaths than the Czech Republic as we know that the mortality form Covid-19 increases sharply for those older than 70 years old. The average age of the dead from/Covid-19 in Europe is around 80 years.
On the other hand, the Czech Republic is in the top-10 of the most obese countries in Europe and we know that obesity strongly increases the risk of dying from Covid-19. Sweden on the other hand is one of the least obese nations in Europe.
More and more evidence show that vitamin D deficiency is highly correlated with Covid-19 deaths (see here).
Sweden does not have a major problem with vitamin D deficiency, but immigrants in Sweden do have serious problems with vitamin D deficiency as do many residents in nursing homes. The data I have seen on vitamin D deficiency in the Czech Republic indicates the problem is bigger than in Sweden.
These factors indicate that we should expect more Covid-death in the Czech Republic than in Sweden.
When the pandemic started to spread in March the Czech Republic went into a rather draconian lockdown. Sweden as we know did not.
Covid-death rose much more in Sweden initially and the Czech Republic was celebrated by many as an example of how to avoid death – just lockdown the country.
However, now things are changing. New daily deaths in Sweden remain very low, while they are rising fast in the Czech Republic and the country seems to be heading for another lockdown.
Judging from Apple Mobility data economic activity is now again falling fast in the Czech Republic, but not in Sweden.
That being said we also need to get things into a proper perspective. In 2018 more than 3000 Czechs died from the ‘normal’ flu (around 2000 Swedes died).
Presently 5900 Swedes have died with Covid-19. In the Czech Republic 1200 has died with Covid-19.
Looking ahead it is worth noticing that Sweden in most rankings of the quality of healthcare systems is top-5 in the world – the Czech Republic is way behind. Similarly, Swedish GDP per capita is doble that of the Czech Republic.
In terms of government efficiency and governance Sweden is top in the world. On the Corruption Perception Index Sweden is number 4. The Czech Republic is 44.
These factors would also indicate more Covid-deaths in the Czech Republic than in Sweden.
So all in all if we look at what I would call ‘health fundamentals’, which include demographics and socio-economic factors there seem to be little reason to expect less Covid-19 deaths (on a per capita basis) in the Czech Republic than in Sweden.
What is different is the timing – Sweden allowed the virus gradually to spread through society (as we normally do with the flu) and consequently ‘front-loaded’ the deaths.
This would have been a mistake if there was a cure just around the corner, but realistically it is unlikely that we will see widespread Covid-vaccination before well into 2021.
The Czech Republic through draconian lockdown policies ‘postponed’ some Covid-deaths, but now it is coming back. Governments cannot micromanage a virus. The Swedish health authorities realized that. The Czech government did not.
I have many friends in the Czech Republic and dearly hope that death rates will soon stop rising, but we are entering winter and judging from the ‘normal’ seasonal flu pattern we should expect deaths to continue to rise until the spring – whether it is Covid-19 or the flu, but I hope I am wrong.