Judgment day: Sweden vindicated

Austria, one of the most repressive European countries during the coronavirus pandemic, has recently overtaken Sweden in terms of total covid mortality, showing that almost all government interventions have been ineffective and unjustified.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Austria has been one of the most repressive European countries, implementing several lockdowns, school closures, far-reaching mask mandates and even an N95/FFP2 mask mandate, record-setting mass PCR testing and contact tracing, as well as early “vaccine passports”. Austria was also the first Western country to impose a “lockdown for the unvaccinated” and the first Western country to announce a general “vaccine mandate”.

In contrast, Sweden has widely been regarded, or indeed criticized, as the least repressive Western country during the coronavirus pandemic, having imposed no lockdowns, no elementary school closures, no mask mandates, no “vaccine passport” (until December), and very limited testing and contact tracing compared to Austria and many other Western countries.

And yet, in December 2021, Austria overtook Sweden in terms of total covid mortality (see chart above). This comes after Austria had reached, in late November, the highest seven-day covid infection rate in the world. The European average covid mortality had already overtaken Swedish covid mortality back in March 2021.

But can Nordic Sweden and Alpine Austria really be compared in a legitimate way? Indeed, they can. To begin with, their population size is quite similar (10.4 million in Sweden vs. 9.0 million in Austria). While the median age in Sweden is slightly lower than in Austria (41.1 vs. 44.4 years; perhaps due to more immigration), the Swedish life expectancy is actually somewhat higher than in Austria (82.4 vs. 81.6 years). Vaccination rates are very similar in Sweden and in Austria (72% vs. 70%).

Interestingly, the population weighted density, which takes urbanization into account, is somewhat higher in Sweden than in Austria (2724 vs. 2191, see map below). The share of single households is also somewhat higher in Sweden than in Austria (40% vs. 36%, both very high figures). Obesity rates are very similar in Sweden and in Austria (20.6% vs. 20.1%). ICU capacity is significantly higher in Austria than in Sweden (5.3 vs. 1.9 beds per 1000 people).

In fact, total covid mortality in Austria and in Sweden may have reached the same level precisely because the two countries are so similar in terms of demographic and health factors. In both countries, the covid population fatality rate (PFR) has reached about 0.15% and is limited primarily to people over 70 years of age (the median age of covid deaths is about 83 years in both countries).

But is it fair to call December 2021 the “judgment day”? Indeed it is, because Sweden has already crossed the “pandemic finish line” and was the first Western country to see the return of influenza, which had been displaced by the coronavirus since March of 2020. Of course, the novel coronavirus will not disappear from Sweden or from anywhere else, and Sweden will certainly see future coronavirus waves, but Sweden has achieved a high population infection rate (about 60% to 75%) and has entered the endemic phase.

Thus, the fact that Austria has now overtaken Sweden in terms of total covid mortality really means that almost every single government intervention in Austria – and almost everywhere else – has been entirely ineffective from an epidemiological and medical perspective, while having caused almost unprecedented social and economic harm.