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15 Dec, 2020 15:50

Sweden suffers deadliest November since Spanish flu era as Stockholm ICUs hit 99 percent capacity

Sweden suffers deadliest November since Spanish flu era as Stockholm ICUs hit 99 percent capacity

According to Sweden's Central Statistics office, the country suffered its deadliest November since Spanish Flu struck in 1918, with 8,088 deaths recorded as the second wave of coronavirus continues.

The November toll equates to an excess mortality of 10 percent above the average between 2015 and 2019.

“That’s the highest number of deaths recorded during the month of November since 1918, which was the year the Spanish flu broke out,” Tomas Johansson from Statistics Sweden said.

While the figure is stark, the gulf between the country’s two deadliest Novembers remains substantial — in 1918 the death toll was 16,000 or double last month’s, at a time when the population was roughly half current levels.

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Statistics also showed that the excess mortality was noted among people of 65 years old and older. For younger people, the death toll in November was slightly lower than the average in 2015–2019.

Sweden's lax approach to combating the coronavirus, in which authorities opted not to institute comprehensive lockdown strategies, has been the source of fierce public debate, but now appears to be faltering as some of Stockholm’s intensive-care units approach 99 percent capacity. Chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell at one point eschewed mask wearing in public, for example. 

“Face masks may be needed in some situations. Those situations have not arisen in Sweden yet, according to our dialogue with the (healthcare) regions,” Tegnell said earlier in December.

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Coronavirus infections have ripped through Sweden's beleaguered medical staff, placing its already strained health care system under even more pressure, with offers of assistance from health services in neighboring Finland and Norway reportedly being accepted.

Sweden has recorded over 340,000 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic resulting in over 7,600 deaths.

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The Swedish government recently introduced a raft of stricter nationwide recommendations including advice to avoid public transport and busy shops and markets, as well as limiting contact between households. 

Social gatherings are also limited to no more than eight people. The government has banned the sale of alcohol after 10pm until February. However, most of the new ‘rules’ do not bear the force of the law.

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