Thursday, April 16, 2020

Sweden and the coronavirus: a lesson in media spin - By Jonathan Barth

All the rage in the news of late is the “failure” of Sweden’s coronavirus policy. Sweden thus far has adopted a moderate, targeted approach. They prohibit visitations at nursing homes, gatherings of more than fifty people, they have closed high schools and colleges, and the government has recommended  that people voluntarily stay at home where possible. Restaurants, bars, parks, playgrounds, and elementary schools remain open.
As evidence of Sweden’s “failed” response, the media persistently harps on the number of deaths in Sweden. On the surface, it sounds valid… until you realize that the same stories deliberately cover up the most important statistic of all: the number of confirmed cases per capita. This is the vital statistic when comparing the spread of the virus in Sweden versus other nations. You rarely hear this statistic because it directly contradicts the establishment’s predetermined agenda (blast Sweden because they dare to not radically shut down their entire country). Instead, the stories on Sweden trumpet a completely irrelevant statistic when comparing the spread of the disease in Sweden versus other countries: the number of deaths per capita. Virtually every article posted about Sweden pushes this fallacy.
Let’s look at the statistic that matters most: confirmed cases per one million population. Spain (3,799); Switzerland (3,043); Italy (2,687); Belgium (2,897); Italy (2,687); France (2,195); USA (1,857); Portugal (1,774); Netherlands (1,643); Austria (1,590) Germany (1,579); United Kingdom (1,451); Norway (1,243); Sweden (1,181); Denmark (1,153).
Far from demonstrating the failure of Sweden's policy, the data actually commends Sweden's decision to adopt only targeted social distancing. They have one of the lowest cases per capita of any major country in Europe.
In fact, the case in Sweden is a relatively spectacular success. The hyped-up models told us that if we did not adopt radical social distancing across the board, the number of people infected with the virus would be many, many times greater. If that were true, how do we explain Sweden's low number of confirmed cases per capita? Either: [A] the virus is not as contagious as initially thought; [B] the virus is indeed very contagious, but for the vast, vast majority of people, the symptoms are so mild that they either do not realize that they have it or they choose not to report it, thus keeping Sweden's numbers of confirmed cases down.
This week a group of twenty-two researchersat Swedish universities and institutes harshly criticized the government’s decision not to strictly lock down the entire country. Think of the absurd reasoning here. 0.1181% of the Swedish population has been confirmed to have caught coronavirus. That means 99.88% of the Swedish population has not gotten a confirmed case of coronavirus. The death rate, of course, is even lower. Only 119 deaths per one million population. In other words, 0.0119% of the Swedish population has died of the coronavirus; of these, almost 90% were over the age of 70. And yet that's "failure"? How is that even remotely close to failure?
The reason why the death rate is less relevant when comparing countries one to another is because there are so many variables involved. Sweden, for example, has a considerably older population than Norway. 20.5% of Swedes are over 65 years old; 16.9% of Norwegians are 65+. The U.S. is about 14%. And there are many other variables that impact the death rate: diet, cultural customs, quality of medical care, etc. Not to mention the most important variable of all: the different ways in which countries count coronavirus deaths. Virtually every country is different in the way it counts deaths.
So the conclusion of the so-called experts (which so far have been comically wrong about almost everything related to this disease) is that the Swedes must lock down their country though 99.88% of their population has not gotten the disease and though only a tiny, tiny number of Swedes (0.01%) have died of it (almost 90% of whom were over the age of 70). That is madness.