A sticker reminding people to practise social distancing in downtown Stockholm on 12 May 2020. (Henrik Montgomery – AFP/Lehtikuva)


HAD FINLAND followed Sweden’s example in the battle against the new coronavirus, its death toll from the virus would already stand at 2,524, according to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

Finland and Sweden have taken vastly different approaches to the pandemic, the former resorting to closures, prohibitions and restrictions and the latter primarily to instructions and recommendations.

Finland reports 15 new infections

  • The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) says the number of laboratory-confirmed coronavirus infections rose by 15 to 7,040 in Finland between Tuesday and Wednesday.
  • The death toll from the virus stayed unchanged (324), as did the number of people in hospital care (28) and critical care (4).
  • A total of 208,300 samples have been tested for the virus, signalling an increase of 2,700 from Tuesday.

THL on Wednesday stated in its weekly report on the state of the epidemic that the deaths would have translated to the loss of 22,269 life-years, an estimate it made based on the average life expectancy in each 10-year age group. The deaths would have occurred especially in the 80–90 age group (1,158), in the over-90 age group (653) and in the 70–80 age group (593).

Suvi Mäklin, a senior researcher at THL, told Helsingin Sanomat that the numbers reveal how many people would have died by now had Finland adopted the same strategy as Sweden. “We have refrained from making predictions about the future,” she said.

The estimate of saved life-years, she stressed, is a preliminary one.

“As we know that nursing homes have had plenty of deaths related to the coronavirus and that people living there have a life expectancy that's shorter than the average among their peers, our estimate is still preliminary,” she elaborated.

The actual death toll from the new coronavirus stood at 324 in Finland at 1.40pm on Wednesday, 10 June. Sweden, by contrast, has reported over 4,700 deaths related to the epidemic.

Mäklin argued to the newspaper that comparing the number of deaths in the two countries is relevant because their societies and age structures are relatively similar. The comparison, therefore, can be used to draw conclusions about the impact of different strategies against the virus.

It would similarly be warranted to compare the numbers to costs to determine the price of each life-year saved in Finland. “I believe it’d be good to compare the price paid for the coronavirus to the cost of other diseases,” said Mäklin.

Finland could have, however, softened the blow to its economy by over five percentage points in April by adopting the same strategy as Sweden, according to THL.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT