The Great Swedish Covid-19 Experiment

While most of the world is locked in, Swedish citizens are not. Sweden has decided not to participate in draconian economic shutdowns, giving us a “null hypothesis case” with which to compare our actions. This policy may seem radical by world standards, but it is exactly the policy advocated by expert epidemiologist Knut Wittkowski. According to Wittkowski lifting the lockdowns would cause the Wuhan virus to be “exterminated” in weeks.

In an article on NewAmerica Dr. Wittkowski, the former longtime head of the Department of Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Research Design at the Rockefeller University in New York City, made his comments in an interview with The Press & The Public Project (PPP) at the start of the month. Wittkowski maintained “that the coronavirus could be ‘exterminated’ if we permitted most people to lead normal lives and sheltered the most vulnerable parts of society until the danger had passed,” reports the College Fix.

According to Dr. Wittkowski “With all respiratory diseases, the only thing that stops the disease is herd immunity. About 80% of the people need to have had contact with the virus, and the majority of them won’t even have recognized that they were infected, or they had very, very mild symptoms, especially if they are children.” Thus, it is very important to keep schools open to allow school children to keep infecting one another to develop group immunity. Once herd immunity is achieved we can begin reintegrating vulnerable groups—the elderly and people in nursing homes—back into normal society.

Needless to say, this is currently a minority view among public health experts. In the United States experts  Dr. Anthony Fauci  and Dr. Deborah Birx continue to advocate a full lockdown of nearly everyone. While it’s a battle of experts, in science data do the talking. And Sweden gives us another data point that will no doubt be very carefully watched. The chart below is current through April 11, 2020, but we may need to wait many months until the data are fully understood. The countries are all in Scandinavia: DK-Denmark, FI-Finland, NO-Norway, SE-Sweden. For comparative purposes through the same time period the USA had 4925 cases/100000 population and 184 deaths/100000 population.

Comments

  • Oleg Janke April 17, 2020 at 8:34 pm Reply

    Since cases are a function of both the number of people infected AND the number of tests run, over testing gives a low death rate (deaths/cases) as asymptomatic people, who will recover without any medical intervention, get included. And similarly under testing gives a high death rate (d/c) by testing only some of those with symptoms–this was the case in Italy where the overcrowded hospitals told the elderly with symptoms to go home and die (my words). Yet their deaths were counted in the COVID death numbers.
    Comparing death rate could make sense only if those tested were randomly selected and deaths were counted only if they had been tested.
    Comparing across countries partially thru the epidemic, as the above chart does, has issues as well, Those countries that let the disease run its course unmitigated will see an early spike in COVID deaths . Once these frail and/or highly “reactive” individuals are removed from the population, then the daily number of deaths will drop precipitously. While quarantined countries will continue to see elevated number of deaths. (Pay me now, or pay me later.)
    Only after the disease has run its course can we compare H0 vs H1.

    • Thomas Pyzdek April 23, 2020 at 2:58 pm Reply

      Excellent points, Oleg. And at a later date we can also see if Sweden avoids recurrent waves of the coronavirus as people like Knut Wittkowski are predicting. For now, the counts of cases and deaths are all we have data about.

  • Thomas Pyzdek May 26, 2020 at 10:04 am Reply

    A recent paper dated May 26, 2020 reports that those who died of Covid19 in Stockholm’s nursing homes had a life-remaining median somewhere in the range of 5 to 9 months. After reading up on Swedish nursing home my conclusion is that they are like hospice in the USA.

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