What’s next for the Covid pandemic in Sweden?

The Swedish Public Health Agency believes that the spread of Covid-19 has peaked and will continue to decrease this spring, but a second scenario warns healthcare services to be prepared in case a new virus variant appears.

What's next for the Covid pandemic in Sweden?
State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell at a press conference in January 2022. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

The new scenarios presented by the Public Health Agency are not a prognosis, but are meant as a tool for healthcare services to plan for the coming months.

Scenario 0, which the agency believes is the most likely, is that the spread of infection will continue to decrease to a low level, where it will remain until the summer.

“We are in a new stage of the pandemic where there is broad immunological protection in the population, since many are vaccinated and have had the infection. Even if the spread of infection were to rise again, it is unlikely that many would become seriously ill,” state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said in a statement.

The agency’s second scenario, scenario 1, plans for a hypothetical new variant of the virus spreading from around March 20th. It assumes that this variant is as infectious as Omicron, with three-month protection for those who have previously been infected with Omicron.

In this scenario, the spread of infection would instead increase during spring 2022, reaching a peak in mid-May.

The agency said it believes the latter scenario to be unlikely, although it cannot be ruled out.

“This is why it is important that healthcare services are highly prepared,” Tegnell said. “Well-followed hygiene routines are the foundation for preventing the spread of infection. By continuing to monitor and test nationally within healthcare, we can see changes in the spread of infection and demand for healthcare, and can even discover new variants of the virus.”

These new scenarios cover the period from now until May 20th. New scenarios will be presented by the agency on April 20th.

The Public Health Agency stated that it does not currently see any reason to reintroduce measures to limit the spread of infection based on these scenarios, but added that “it is likely that Covid-19 will require further vaccinations for all or parts of the population during future winter seasons”. 

Currently, around 84 percent of Sweden’s over-12 population have been vaccinated with two or more doses.

Sweden ended most Covid restrictions on February 9th. On the same day it stopped testing the general public, limiting them to staff and patients in the health and elderly care sectors. That same week, a total of 62,406 new infections were confirmed, down 66 percent on the previous week. A total of 2,422,856 Covid infections have been confirmed in Sweden since the start of the pandemic.

The number of deaths with Covid reached its highest level in a year during those two weeks. On February 3rd, 55 deaths were reported, the highest number since January 30th last year. In total, 16,852 people have died in Sweden within 30 days after testing positive for Covid.

The number of Covid patients in intensive care has been on a downward curve since early February. Eighty-one Covid patients were receiving intensive care on Monday, according to public broadcaster SVT’s database – a decrease of ten patients in one week.

The Coronavirus Commission, appointed to examine Sweden’s coronavirus strategy, is set to present its final report later this week. You can read more about its findings in its first two reports here and here. The Local will cover the release of the final report on Friday.

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The Local’s paywall-free Covid blog is coming to an end

After two years, it's time for us to bid farewell to The Local's paywall-free Covid blog. But we'll continue to cover the pandemic in other articles.

The Local's paywall-free Covid blog is coming to an end

In March 2020, just a day before the World Health Organization declared that the spread of the new coronavirus was now a pandemic, we published The Local’s free Covid blog.

At the time it was not much more than a short timeline of the outbreak in Sweden up until that point. But since then, it’s been one of our most important articles.

In the past two years, the blog has been read more than a million times, and it’s been the most-read article on the site almost every day. Despite being completely free to read, it has also been the most-read article among paying members – thank you for your feedback and support, it’s been invaluable.

We’ve kept the blog updated almost every weekday for the past two years, while also producing other, more in-depth, articles on everything from Covid vaccine passes, opinion pieces and our own readers’ stories about the issues you told us affected you.

Most of the blog updates have been done by myself or Catherine Edwards, followed by her successor Becky Waterton from October 2021. That’s not a huge team, so we’re grateful that our community of members of The Local makes our newsroom feel much bigger.

We started the blog mainly to keep readers informed about new infections and changes to restrictions, recommendations and testing rules.

But we’ve reached a new stage of the pandemic, and it feels like the blog has served its purpose.

Nearly all restrictions and guidelines have been lifted, data on new infections is harder to come by since Sweden stopped testing the general public on February 9th, and today the Coronavirus Commission set up to investigate Sweden’s pandemic response presented its final report. We’ve written about it here.

Today will also be the last time we update the blog. But the pandemic itself, its impact on people, and The Local’s coverage, are not over. Loved ones are still falling ill and dying, vaccinations are still vitally important, and Sweden’s non-EU entry restrictions are still in place until March 31st.

We’ll continue to cover all of those things in other articles. If you want an email alert every time we publish a major Covid-19 story, make sure to update your newsletter preferences here.

It’s now time for us to focus our resources on those articles, as well as continuing to investigate other issues that affect foreign residents’ lives in Sweden. With Russia’s war in Ukraine, Sweden’s upcoming election in September, and potential changes to Sweden’s migration laws, there’s no shortage of such issues.

This is my last day at The Local before I go on parental leave. Our correspondent Richard Orange will take over as editor while I’m gone. You’re always welcome to get in touch with him and Becky Waterton at [email protected] if you have any questions about life in Sweden, or any stories you think they should cover.

As always, thanks for reading,