The Cost of Sweden’s Initial Refusal to Lockdown

The Cost of Sweden’s Initial Refusal to Lockdown

As countries around the world were implementing safety measures to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, Sweden went its own way by allowing bars, restaurants, schools, stores, and gyms to stay open. Healthy Swedes were not confined to their homes, though eventually the government did impose social distancing in public and self-quarantine for those who felt sick. However, masks were not required.

But behind the scenes, the virus continued to spread, hitting the country’s elderly population in particular.

Comparing Death Rate Data

Sweden's per capita death rate is now one of the highest in the world (global, 6.8 million confirmed cases and 397,000 COVID-19 deaths). Calculated as deaths per 100,000 residents, about 11% of Sweden’s population have died from COVID-19, which places Sweden in the Top 10 countries with the highest death rates per 100K people.

  1. Sweden 43.24
  2. Denmark 9.94
  3. Finland 5.76
  4. Norway 4.44

While some countries have higher per capita rates — like Yemen (over 20%), France (just under 20%), and Hungary (14%) — the average COVID-19 death rate per country is below 10%.

Sweden’s rate is more than twice that of Germany’s, despite the fact that Germany has 142,000 more confirmed cases.

What Does This Cost Sweden?

Both the Chief Epidemiologist of Sweden, Anders Tegnell, and Prime Minister Stefan Lofven have taken a lot of heated criticism over the past week as the country finds itself in a predicament that could have been avoided if the government had imposed restrictions months ago.

Sweden’s high rate of infection has not gone unnoticed by its neighbors. Denmark is reopening gyms and swimming areas this week, though there is a new 50-person limit on public gatherings. The border between Denmark and Norway is reopening for tourism beginning June 15, but you won’t find any Swedes traveling through Scandinavia. Denmark, Norway, and Finland are all imposing travel restrictions on Sweden.

A Decline in Online Growth

Does this impact Sweden’s e-commerce? Perhaps. There is a decline in growth at the moment. Putting the correlation/causation argument aside, here’s how Sweden’s pure e-commerce and retail online has fared over the last week:


Pure e-commerce in Sweden (June 1,2020).

Retail online in Sweden (June 1,2020).

Expect e-commerce to continue to decline throughout the summer as Swedes begin to reduce their own self-quarantine measures, and resume visiting brick-and-mortar locations with even less social distancing restriction.

However, with 52% of the population “very or extremely concerned about the uncertainty of the duration of the COVID-19 situation” and 47% equally concerned about the nation’s economy, the complete long-term impact on consumer spending remains uncertain.

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