Discover more from Informeret
The Evening Report - June 1
COVID drove down life expectancy. Pressure builds to get Sweden into NATO.
A new study from researchers in Australia, Germany, and the United States paint a grim picture of the true impact of the COVID death toll. The study published in Nature focuses on 27 countries where, had the pandemic not struck, life expectancy would have continued to have increased. Instead, it found that pandemic deaths were so severe that in most of the 27 countries life expectancy decreased, and in some cases quite significantly.
“This should be a cause for increased concern among governments, health service providers and the public because the impacts of the COVID pandemic on human mortality might be more significant than previously understood and that the consequences of this devastating pandemic are likely to be long-lasting.”
For example, in the United States, which has reported by far the highest number of pandemic deaths of any nation on earth, COVID drove life expectancy down by over two years. That is a horrifying statistic.
On the other hand, researchers credit the pandemic response in Australia, Japan, Denmark, and Norway, all of which experienced a less significant loss of, and even a slight increase in, life expectancy during the pandemic.
“The success of these four countries in controlling COVID may be attributed to their rapid government response, public trust in government and geographic advantage. First, the government response to COVID in these four countries was swift and decisive. For example, Denmark and Norway had already imposed strict national lockdowns and international travel bans and opened COVID testing to all people before a surge in COVID cases and deaths; this was not seen in many other European nations.”
The study can be found HERE
COVID hospitalizations (148) continue to fall in Denmark (-20) while the number of severely infected people in an ICU (5) dipped slightly (-1) of those, the number of people on a ventilator (2) is unchanged day to day.
In the last seven days, 74% of all infection-related hospitalizations have been seniors over 65.
In the last week, the Statens Serum Institute has registered 29 more pandemic deaths pushing the to-date death toll to 8,708 lives lost.
Denmark has registered just over 300 confirmed coronavirus infections in the last week, a number wildly underreported due to the ending of its public COVID testing program a few months ago.
The seven-day positivity percentage is 8.2%, a decrease from the 10.3% of the week before.
COVID wastewater surveillance registered a decrease in coronavirus activity in the week ending May 30. The Statens Serum Institute notes that while overall levels have been stable there have been slight fluctuations upward and downward in recent weeks. Keep in mind that the number of wastewater surveillance sites in Denmark has been greatly reduced.
The Swedish government website tracking COVID hospitalizations was offline on Thursday. But the Swedish Public Health Agency submitted a coronavirus update to the European Union this week that provides the most information on the situation in Sweden than we have seen for a while.
In the report to the EU, the Swedish Public Health Agency said while everyone in Sweden was impacted by the pandemic “groups who were already at an increased risk of poor health outcomes have been most affected.”
It also warned that health inequalities may increase in the aftermath of the pandemic. The agency advises strengthening the healthcare system and prevention efforts.
When it comes to severe infections resulting in hospitalization, and especially intensive care admissions, numbers have been much lower during the Omicron wave compared to previous variants.
But, the national health agency also notes while overall pandemic deaths haven’t spiked as high as in previous waves, fatalities in Sweden have not declined during the Omicron wave in the same way intensive care numbers did.
Studies in Sweden and the other Nordic countries have shown immigrant communities were hit much harder by COVID. In its report to the EU, the Swedish Public Health Agency included the chart below.
A study of certain immigrant communities in Sweden determined it was less vaccine hesitancy and more a lack of culturally specific communication that increased COVID impacts. The study by Swedish researchers published in the European Journal of Public Health focused on first-generation immigrants from Syria and Somalia, the two largest immigrant communities in Sweden.
Among Syrian and Somalian immigrants taking part in the study just 5% were dead set against getting a COVID vaccine. 7% said they would probably not get vaccinated, and 4% had not made up their minds yet.
Instead of any large upswell of vaccine opposition, researchers found that it was a lack of adequate information targeted to those communities in their own language or from a trusted peer that stood in the way of getting vaccinated.
“The results underscore the importance of trust in healthcare providers and government authorities. Additionally, the importance of providing adequate and targeted information about vaccination to groups who face the largest barriers to care, enables informed decision-making about the benefits and risks of vaccination in relation to health risks. Given these health risks, it is crucial that government agencies and the health sector address the multiple social dimensions that shape the low vaccine uptake and, in turn, health equity.”
Researchers found another barrier to getting vaccinated was technology in digitally savvy Sweden. Less tech-literate immigrants struggled with online booking systems and digital healthcare appointments especially combined with the language barrier.
Overall, the study found that the highest factors in vaccine hesitancy were among immigrants from Eastern European countries, women, people with a low education level, a lack of trust in authorities, and a perceived lack of benefit to getting vaccinated.
“The results underscore the importance of trust in healthcare providers and government authorities and the importance of providing adequate information about vaccination to groups who face the largest barriers to care in order to enable informed decision-making about the benefits and risks of vaccination in relation to health risks. If government authorities and healthcare providers clearly address misconceptions or fears regarding vaccination and potential side effects, immigrants may be more inclined to choose vaccination in turn protecting them from preventable illness and premature death.”
The study in full can be found HERE.
The vast majority of the Swedish population has coronavirus antibodies due to either being vaccinated or having been infected. The Swedish Public Health Agency says it conducted tests of excess blood samples across nine Swedish regions. The result? 96% of the population is estimated to have antibodies protecting them to some degree from severe COVID infections. That is a 2% increase from the last blood testing survey done last fall.
The agency says antibodies were high across all age groups. Almost 100% of seniors over 65 had antibody protection. For those 50 to 64 years old it was 98%. Those aged 19 to 49 were 96%. Among young people 14 to 18 years old antibody protection was 98%.
Department Head Sara Byfors:
“In children, it is a past infection that is behind the high proportion of antibodies. In other age groups, the continued vaccinations and top-up doses have contributed to the high prevalence of antibodies. However, the protection decreases over time and it is therefore still important to take the top-up doses that are recommended.”
The agency notes that antibody protection does fade over time so protection against severe infections varies across the population. The health authority continues to insist that most children don’t need to be vaccinated against COVID as they “rarely get seriously ill.”
The Finnish Institute for Health has registered 762 confirmed COVID infections in the last seven days and 74 more lives lost to the virus.
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health issues a COVID update every two weeks. Its next report is due next week.
⚡️Energy & Environment🍃
Denmark’s weather agency is warning that the country is in a drought and with no rain in sight things could get even worse. The Danish Meteorological Institute says the drought index is currently at 9 and is “rapidly moving” to the most severe rating of 10. DMI says the situation right now is very similar to the beginning of a historic drought that hit Denmark in 2018. The drought five years ago destroyed crops, caused wildfires, and triggered severe water restrictions and in some cases outright bans.
A broad majority in the Danish parliament has agreed to triple offshore wind power production. This will mean a near doubling of wind turbines off the coast of Denmark. This will boost wind power production to nine gigawatts up from the current 2.3.
Danish Climate and Energy Minister Lars Aagaard:
“This is more electricity than people in Denmark can use, so it contributes to Europe's green transition and a safer world, where we become more independent of imported energy. We all know that it is about ending gas from Russia.”
Dansk Erhev Deputy Director Ulrich Bang is ecstatic telling DR that Denmark needs all the green power it can get.
“Large amounts of offshore wind are absolutely necessary if Denmark is to achieve its climate goals, lower electricity prices must be ensured, and a basis must be created for the future Power-to-X industry in Denmark.”
Power to X is the use of technology converting electricity to hydrogen. The hydrogen can be used as fuel or stored to be reconverted to electricity on demand.
Dansk Industri is also happy with the expansion but remains concerned about the Danish government insisting on some degree of state ownership.
Political Director Emil Fannikke Kiær:
“State ownership is not the ideal solution. It is important that there must be an arm's length between state ownership and day-to-day operations.”
Defying fears if a recession the Danish economy continues to grow. GDP grew by 0.2% in the first quarter according to Statistics Denmark. Employment numbers also continue to break records.
The Swedish government has opened the door for companies to apply for an electricity price subsidy but only those in the southern part of the country. Unlike subsidies for households, businesses in Sweden need to actively apply for the subsidy to get a helping hand. The application can be done through the Swedish Tax Agency. Critics are saying the subsidy isn’t fairly distributed as all companies in Sweden have struggled with surging electricity prices but only those in the southern part of the country can help.
Euro area inflation appears to have eased last month. According to a flash estimate from the European statistics agency EuroStat, inflation in Europe was 6.1% in May down from April’s 7%. The agency says inflation eased almost across the board with cooling price increases on everything from food to energy.
Inflation is also easing in one of Europe’s biggest economies. Inflation in Germany dropped almost a full point from 7.2% in April to 6.1% in May, the lowest level since March of last year. Price increases for energy and food cooled the most in Germany helping to drive down inflation.
Natural gas prices in Europe continue to plummet. Gas prices have fallen like a rock this year, down over 65% so far with few indications the slide will end anytime soon.
🇺🇦/ 🇷🇺 War
🇩🇰 🇵🇱 🇺🇦
There continues to be movement on the possible donation of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. At the European Political Community Summit in Moldova on Thursday, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy about training Ukrainian pilots on the more modern combat aircraft.
Speaking to DR, Frederiksen said this is an important and challenging collaboration.
“Now, together with other countries, we have started to look at how it should work in practice: the training of pilots, the training of the employees who have to maintain the planes, but also how the infrastructure in Ukraine will work at some point.”
Poland has also joined the F-16 coalition and will help train Ukrainian pilots.
NATO 🇸🇪 🇹🇷
With six weeks to go until the NATO summer summit in Lithuania, the alliance’s Secretary-General has announced he will travel to Turkey to push for it to finally ratify Sweden’s NATO application. In a Thursday morning media scrum in Oslo, Norway, Jens Stoltenberg says he will travel to Turkey in the “near future.”
“My message is that Sweden's membership is good for Sweden, the Nordic region, the Baltic region, and for the whole of NATO. It is also good for Turkey.”
In opposing Sweden’s NATO membership Turkey has cited terrorism concerns accusing Sweden of harbouring members of the PKK, a Kurdish terrorist organization. However, the 29 NATO member countries that have already ratified Sweden’s ascension protocols continue to note Sweden has met every single membership requirement.
Sweden is hoping it has cracked the code to finally convince Turkey to support its membership in NATO. On Thursday, new anti-terror legislation came into force in Sweden. Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson called it the “last part” of fulfilling its end of an agreement with Turkey over supporting Sweden’s NATO bid.
On Tuesday, Kristersson held a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken where Blinken also called on Turkey to speed up the ratification process and approve Sweden’s NATO application.
Sweden’s former Foreign Affairs Minister Ann Linde is cautioning that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who she has met several times, is a mercurial man and where he is concerned there are no absolutes. Linde warns whether Turkey supports Sweden’s NATO bid or keeps opposing it rests entirely with Erdoğan.
Linde spoke to Swedish national broadcaster SVT:
“I hope it will be resolved before the summit in Vilnius. It is an advantage that Erdoğan has had no problem changing his mind quickly. We have fulfilled our part of the memorandum we signed with Turkey, but having said that, nothing can be guaranteed when it comes to Erdoğan.”
She also notes that Turkey has a close relationship with Russia and whether it gravitates toward the West or moves closer into the Soviet orbit remains an open question.
“We see what a close relationship he has with Russia. Russia has helped Erdoğan a lot, they didn't have to pay their gas bills. Turkey was given a lot of credit for the grain agreement and Erdoğan has repeatedly said that Putin is a great friend. But will that mean turning even more to Russia, or will he turn more to the EU?”
Support for joining NATO has hit a record high in Sweden even as the country’s effort to join the military alliance continues to be held up. In a DN/Ipsos survey published in Dagens Nyheter, 65% of Swedes now support joining NATO, a five-point increase from a poll done in December. Just 16% oppose the idea. For a country that prided itself on its neutrality for most of the last century that is remarkable.
Ipsos Analyst Nicklas Källebring says reporting during the war showing Russia’s ruthlessness and brutality is one factor driving up support for NATO. He also notes that the data shows support growing the most among those under 30 and especially among Swedish women.
Diplomatic relations between Russia and Germany are in a deep freeze. On Wednesday, Germany revoked the licenses of four of the five Russian embassies in the country meaning all four embassies will have to close. This was retaliation for Russia recently expelling hundreds of German officials. Moscow is not happy and has vowed to retaliate.
While NATO has opened the door to Ukraine joining the military alliance it is playing coy on a specific timeline.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg wouldn’t provide any specifics on a definitive process when asked.
“All allies agree that NATO's door is open to new members. All members of NATO also agree that Ukraine will become a member of NATO and that it is up to NATO and NATO allies to decide. It is not up to Moscow.”
Stoltenberg has previously stated that Ukraine cannot be admitted as long as the country is at war with Russia. But Ukraine advocates note Germany was admitted to NATO during the Cold War when East Germany was behind the iron curtain. Once eventually reunified West Germany’s NATO membership expanded to include the repatriated East Germany.
19 NATO member nations have signed a letter calling for a clear path and timeline to be established at the alliance’s summer summit for Ukraine to become an alliance member. Signatory countries were Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, France, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the USA.
The government of the Faroe Islands has decided to limit access of Russian ships to the country’s ports. This is in response to an investigative documentary done by the four Nordic public broadcasters, DR, SVT, NRK, and Yle. The documentary called “The Shadow War” found, among other things, that Russian ships posing as fishing trawlers had hidden radio rooms with military-grade equipment. The ships in question were suspected of intelligence gathering for the possibility of future espionage.
The Faroe Islands will now only allow Russian fishing vessels that have permission to fish in Faroese waters to continue to dock in the islands. The government says it will also now reassess a fishing agreement that has been in place with Russia since 1977.
Next week, the Danish, Faroese, and Greenlandic governments will meet for a National Assembly in Greenland. Among the big topics on the table is the espionage threat that Russia poses against the Kingdom of Denmark and what to do about it.
An investigation by independent media and research center Danwatch has found that insulation products from Rockwool, a big Danish company, have found their way to Russia. The company’s rock mineral insulation contains thermal, acoustic, and fire protection properties. Danwatch’s investigation found that despite sanctions Rockwool’s products have been used in three of Russia’s most dangerous warships.
The investigative journalism piece can be found HERE in Danish.
As Russia finds new ways to skirt sanctions on its oil and gas industry, pressure is building for the European Union to take action. Finland’s outgoing Prime Minister Sanna Marin says more work is needed to enforce sanctions. She hopes that European Union politicians will take serious steps including bringing countries outside Europe on side.
"We cannot do it alone as members of the European Union, we need broader joint support.”
Various investigations have found that Russia is using a variety of methods including using a fleet of shadow tankers, ship-to-ship transfers at sea, and spoofing ship GPS systems, to get Russian oil and gas to countries that are not imposing sanctions. Those countries then sell the oil and gas, or refined products thereof, back to Western countries that are imposing sanctions.
The United States has tabled another military aid package for Ukraine. This latest weapons shipment is worth $300 million USD. It includes air defense systems, anti-aircraft guns, and tank ammunition, among other arms.
Thanks for reading Informeret ! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.