Sweden coronavirus press conference, April 3, 2020

On this day, there were 1 million cases globally. There were 6078 cases in Sweden; including 612 people who got sick in the last day; and 469 people who had or still are in intensive care. There were 333 fatalities.

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They start off, as usual, by mentioning that global cases are growing quickly because of the US.

This time is was not Anders Tegnell holding main court, rather it was Anders Wallensten. So not the chief epidemiologist, but the vice-chief epidemiologist.

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Anders Wallensten

By the way, this is the guy who introduces all the speakers at the beginning of the press conference:

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Anders Wallensten says: you see the number of cases by day is increasing.

Question: Based on the curve now, meaning the number of dead and the number of cases and people in intensive care, is this where you expected to be at this point?

Anders Wallensten: Um …. [asks a clarifying question back to buy time!] …

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Anders Wallensten feigning confusion

Wallensten: We’re looking carefully at these figures that we have, and we have done some modeling and … you see, these numbers are what the numbers are, we don’t have to compare them. We can make a prognosis of where it’s going, and then we can change tact based on that.

Question: Do we see a peak coming in Stockholm?

Anders Wallensten: No, by these figures, no. It also would take a few weeks to know that we actually had a peak.

Question from a Norwegian reporter, speaking Norwegian: You’ve asked people to stay home during the Easter holidays and not go on vacation. Do you think people will do that?

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Norwegian reporter from NRK

Anders Wallensten, speaking Swedish: I think there will be a few trips, but I really hope most people will re-think. It’s not forbidden, but I think most people will stay home.

Question: do you have a prognosis of how many people are going to die?

Anders Wallensten: It’s hard to make an exact prognosis. We can see the developments in Italy and other countries. It’s different in every country. So to come up with a specific number is hard.

Questioner continued: okay, but if you could come up with a number, what would it be?

Anders Wallensten: I haven’t calculated that, but we have people working on modeling and …

Questioner continued: so haven’t they said anything to you about a number?

Anders Wallensten: I don’t have an exact figure today.

Question: Will the number of intensive care units be enough?

Johanna Sandvall: she says that we have capacity right now, it’s Stockholm it’s a bit tight, etc, etc, and all our resources will be used to  meet the need, etc etc.

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Johanna Sandvall

Questioner continued: [a bit unintelligible] but will it be enough?

Johanna Sandvall: [snaps] it’s not possible to answer that question!

Question: An epidemiologist in the US by the name of Dr. Anthony Fauci (*mispronounces the last name*) has estimated that the coronavirus death rate is 0.1% (Has Dr. Fauci actually said that?? Or was this guy making it up?) And this is not worse than a bad season of flu. So with that in mind, how can you justify shutting down an entire country?

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Anders Wallensten and Johanna Sandvall trying to figure out what to say, while the guy on the left grins

Anders Wallensten and Johanna Sandwall first stare dumbfounded at the reporter for a full two seconds; then stare at each other, hoping the other will try to answer first. Anders Wallensten finally makes an attempt.

Anders Wallensten: Well, eh, okay, we don’t really know what the real mortality rate is. The first rates from China were at 2-3%, in Italy, it’s been higher. It can vary. The more time passes, and the more information we get about mild symptoms from this illness, the more these mortality rates can fall. Where it’s going to end up, we don’t really know. If we look at the American statistic that you just gave, it’s pretty low and maybe comparable to influenza, but we also have a situation where we see how the medical resources in certain countries are extremely stretched, and that’s a good reason for taking these measures. It’s not just about comparing to influenza. If it had been an pandemic of infuenza, then it could have been an equally serious situation.

Questioner persists: Ehh, the article in question is published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which is one of the world’s most respected journals. So if New England Journal of Medicine considers the mortality rate of coronavirus is at 0.1%, and one of America’s leading epidemiologists says the same, how can it be that we impose such stringent measures that affect the economy and that can have really large consequences for public health? So I ask again. How can you shut down the whole country?

[Heads of the other journalists are swiveling around to take a good look at this guy]

Anders Wallensten: Um, eh, if you, if we look around the world, for example, the situation in Italy. We don’t want that situation here in Sweden. So these measures are hopefully going to be a short-lived thing that will make a big difference for how well we are able to take care of sick people. That’s what we’re trying to do. Of course, in the long-term, these measures can affect public health negatively, so we do want to be clear that these measures are for handling an acute situation and are not meant to remain in the long-term. Absolutely not. So it’s important to share information on how to take care of patients, how to slow the infection rate, develop a vaccine; and you’re absolutely right, if this goes on a long time, it would be a big problem.

To his credit, Anders Wallensten kept a gentle expression on his face. There was no hint of, why are you so stupid?

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After the press conference was over, they went back to the studio, and Iva Horvatovich, a reporter, was asked to summarize.

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Iva Horvatovich

I think Iva wants to give encouragement to the people trying to keep coronavirus from being a catastrophe, because she always puts a bright spin on things, as though to say: I know you’re working hard! I’ve got you!

This is what she said today: Well, today there was not much news, which is maybe good, because that means nothing too terrible is happening. We’re going to continue tracking this curve, and if you have a flat curve, it takes a little longer to reach its peak [except no one today said anything about a flat curve], and that’s why we haven’t seen a peak, yet. A positive sign is that the rate of people in intensive care who are dying has gone down a little.

And there’s still capacity available in the intensive care units, but especially in Stockholm, it’s getting a little tighter, but at least we haven’t yet shot over the top of the capacity of the medical resources.

Iva continues: And yes, it’s true that coronavirus is infecting people in retirement homes, (but Iva hurries to add that) this is completely in line with what happened in other countries in Europe and the world. It’s happened in Italy, Spain, in the US, that you’ve had the infection spreading in retirement homes, and many people have died. We don’t know if the total number of fatalities will be as high in Sweden as it has been in Italy, where they weren’t as prepared for coronavirus at the same level that we were.

Finally, there was an individual interview with Anders Wallensten.

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Anders Wallensten

Question: There’s been an increase in the number of cases. Have we reached the peak?

Anders Wallensten: I don’t think so. We won’t know if we’ve reached the peak until we’ve started going down in new cases for a few weeks. And we’re not there yet.

Question: There’s also an increase in the number of dead, what do you think [I thought they just said the number of dead was a little lower. Or was that just Iva who said that?]

Anders Wallensten: I’m afraid it will continue like that for a while. It’s a sad time.

Question: How happy are you with your strategy for combating the disease?

Anders Wallensten: Yes, well, it’s of course not until later that you can really know which strategy worked the best. But the advice and recommendations that we have laid out is followed carefully by most people and I think this has a clear effect.

Question: are you worried that there won’t be enough intensive care units?

Anders Wallensten: well, of course it would be a big problem if they weren’t enough. But Socialstyrelsen (some sort of agency that does ‘social’ stuff ???) has their eye on that and they have said that there’s possibilities for expanding capacity, so I hope it will be enough.

Question: is it time for some clearer prohibitions on what people can and can’t do?

Anders Wallensten: from what we see, the recommendations we’ve given out have had a good effect. Of course, you can’t know exactly until afterwards what the real effect has been. There’s a certain lag between when you make a rule and when you see any results from it. But for now, we think our current recommendations are at a good level.

Question: You’ve talked about flattening out the curve. Is it going to plan?

Anders Wallensten: We’ll have to see. So far, it’s manageable, even if it’s tight. And that’s our goal, to hold it within the manageable.

4 thoughts on “Sweden coronavirus press conference, April 3, 2020”

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