Sweden Records Highest Death Toll Since Famine Year 1869

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During the first half of 2020, 51,405 people died in Sweden – and you actually have to go back in time 150 years to the bad harvest years of the 19th century to find a match to the high mortality of the coronavirus outbreak. The dynamics of the epidemic have been described as "one wedding for three funerals".

Sweden's population increase during the first half of the year (24,801) is the lowest since 2005, and has been attributed to a spike in deaths and drop-off in immigration due to the coronavirus pandemic, the newspaper Sydsvenskan reported.

The country's death toll in 2020 (51,405 in a nation of over 10 million) is only surpassed by the famine year of 1869 when 55,431 people died.

The mortality rate was higher for men than for women. Overall, excess mortality during the first half of the year was 10 percent. The mortality rate for men was 13 percent, or 3,035 deaths, compared with 7 percent, or 1,597 deaths, for women.

The number of deaths increased sharply from the end of March to reach its peak in mid-April, when 398 people per day died on 15 and 16 April. After the mid-April peak, the number of deaths fell, but at the end of June, Sweden still had an excess mortality level, Statistics Sweden reported.

The highest number of fatalities was recorded in April, when 10,543 people died. This corresponded to 101.9 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants at the beginning of the month. This was the highest number of deaths in relation to the population since January 2000, when 9,822 people died, or 107.3 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. A higher mortality level was only recorded in December 1993 at 11,057 deaths. 

The coronavirus outbreak also led to a 22 percent drop in weddings compared with 2019, leading to the lowest figure in the 2000s. At the same time, the number of divorces has spiked to a seven-year high. The dynamics of the epidemic have even been described as "one wedding for three funerals".

Incidentally, the coronavirus outbreak has led to the lowest immigration rate since the time of Prime Minister Göran Persson in the early 2000s, Statistics Sweden indicated. Immigration during the first half of the year amounted to 36,058 people. Compared with the corresponding period in 2019, this is a decrease of 34.7 percent. 

Overall, 10,352,390 people were registered in Sweden at the turn of the year – 49.7 percent women and 50.3 percent men.

In recent months, Sweden's standalone approach to battling the coronavirus with minor restrictions and no national lockdown has triggered polarising reactions across the globe, ranging from admiration and envy to bitter criticism.

In Sweden, which refused to shut down and largely pursued a voluntary model of restrictions, over 85,000 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed, resulting in over 5,800 deaths, most of them senior citizens. Since the scope and death toll of the Swedish outbreak is much higher than those of its Nordic peers combined, Stockholm's response sparked a lot of internal and external criticism over the “death, grief, and suffering” that could have been avoided, according to Swedish academics who cautioned the world not to follow the nation's example.

Sweden of late has seen a downward trend in the number of new infections, unlike its peers that duly locked down. Stockholm's strategy has been credited with upholding the country's economy and bolstering the national currency, the krona.

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