The Swedish experiment looks like it’s paying off

There are also encouraging signs that the growth of reported infections is also slowing down – a development that holds for both Stockholm (by far the worst affected region) and the rest of the country. The estimate from the Public Health Agency is that 100,000 people will show up at a hospital and test positive for Covid-19: the current headcount, just south of 14,800, suggests we are broadly in line with that estimate – if not below it.

Perhaps more important is the situation at our hospitals and their intensive care wards. The main ambition of suppression policies, after all, has been to avoid hospitals getting overwhelmed by patients they cannot treat because of shortages of staff, equipment and intensive care beds. Modellers in Sweden that have followed an Imperial College type approach have suggested demand will peak at 8,000 to 9,000 patients in intensive care per day. But actual numbers are telling a very different story. Yes, the situation is stressful, but – mercifully – the growth in intensive care patients has slowed down remarkably and the number of patients currently in intensive care has flatlined.

We now have about 530 patients in intensive care in the country: our hospital capacity is twice as high at 1,100. Stockholm now averages about 220 critical care patients per day and its hospitals, far from being overwhelmed, have capacity for another 70. Stockholm also reports that it has several hundred inpatient care beds unoccupied and that people shouldn’t hesitate to seek hospital care if they feel sick. A new field ward has been set up in Stockholm for intensive and inpatient care and some predicted it would start getting patients two weeks ago. It hasn’t received any patients yet.