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.

Source: Here.

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.

Source: here.

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.

Source: Here.

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.

Leave a comment


  1. Eyal Shahar

     /  October 17, 2020

    Interesting piece. Thanks.

    I am wondering about something: If draconian lockdown indeed halted the epidemic in March, why did it take the virus 6 months to cause the current epidemic? They did not remain in lockdown for 6 months.

    • Martina Dršková (CZR)

       /  October 20, 2020

      Well. We really cut it from the start (-minus 14 days of havoc) and ultimately. It cost huge amount of money. Then we “won” and everyone went to sleep. There was commission for loosening restrictions – leading epidemiologist left at the end of the summer (“cannot work there anymore”). A month sooner another epidemiologist – hero from spring but still man n.2, not n.1 left ministry of health. In september they finaly kicked minister and n2. – Roman Prymula came back to his position – saddly as crisis manager. After spring no one within the political goverment really cared what can really happen. And people were just pissed of from spring. Huge number of doctor came also with “its just as common flu”, stop with scaring the people. And in 2021 we will have parliamental election. I think – 6month for this kind of virus, is just what he needs to cause another epidemy. We are still virgin population. “Hey do you know someone with Covid”? Common answer in august was simply no. So there was no political will to systematicaly care about this sars-cov2 matter. We cannot piss of electorate anymore. And in Sweden they consistently continue from March 2020, if they drop their care and attention. Well after few months….

  2. guest

     /  October 24, 2020

    a virus (dna-information/update) is smaller than a scent molecule (the reason why in films like outbreak the actors wear isolated clothing with oxygen supply), so the virus will catch up with its specific “victims” anyway in the long run (similar like only an allergy sufferer reacts to its trigger), this is simply evolution (pedo & cannibalistic neanderthals died out, pest wiped away the dark middle ages and corona might eradicate overfed Homo consumis of the first world), but by wearing masks will harm EVERYBODY (CO2 acidifies an organism). apart from that: anybody who has antibodies is a permanent CARRIER of the according virus and environmental circumstances / milieu (corona & influenca is cold+wet, whereas herpes is hot+dry, ebola hot+wet, etc) will make it multiply & spread (cough, sex), very simple (this is why you can detect “infections” even in fossil dna or a single sailor gets a cold far away from any infection source after a wet & cold storm). Some are fit for updates and some are not, working against nature (vaccines, artificial medications) will only cause more unbalanced/asymmetric dna in humans and therefore devolution / more & more unhealthy individuals (no wonder that unnatural pharma-clients are the main targets)

  3. gc80

     /  November 17, 2020

    How do you feel about the recent tightening of restrictions in Sweden?

    I’m guessing that Sweden’s logic in imposing relatively few restrictions back in March was that the restrictions they did impose would have to be maintained until herd immunity was reached (either by infection or by vaccination) and that harsher restrictions that weren’t sustainable in this manner would merely postpone deaths until after they were lifted. This would mean that there was a greater case for harsher restrictions now, for three reasons:

    * The resurgence of the virus demonstrates that Sweden has not attained herd immunity, contrary to the hopes during the summer,
    * The fact that a decline and resurgence has occurred even though restrictions (unlike elsewhere in Europe) haven’t been substantially relaxed suggests that seasonality is a key factor. Perhaps the first wave was mitigated by the fact that it didn’t start until winter was almost over, and a second wave running over the entire winter period would be much worse?
    * The new restrictions won’t have to be maintained for more than a few months because the vulnerable part of the population (at least) will be vaccinated by then.



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