How the British Variant Became the Swedish Virus

In the early days of the pandemic, Sweden failed to test and track the Corona virus. When they were bracing for a new mutation, almost a year later, it turned out that nothing had been learned. 

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The United Kingdom has recently informed other countries about a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The new variant may be more contagious, but there is no evidence that it would cause more severe disease. The variant has so far not been found in Sweden. The Public Health Agency considers that a stop for entry from The UK is a reasonable precaution in the situation.  (Swedish national Public Health Authority (FoHM Press release December 20, 2020)

The first case of the new variant in Sweden was confirmed December 26.  On December 30, another 4 cases were confirmed.  FoHM found in this an opportunity for self-glorification:

Publicerat 30 december 2020

Ytterligare fyra fall av den variant av covid-19 som rapporterats från Storbritannien, har nu upptäckts. I Sverige har analysarbetet intensifierats, och att fler fall skulle upptäckas var inte oväntat.

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A further four cases of the covid-19 variant reported from the UK have now been detected. In Sweden, the analysis work has been intensified, and it was not unexpected that more cases would be discovered.

Due to the reports from the United Kingdom, the analyzes in Sweden have been expanded and intensified. The work has taken place in close collaboration with the regions’ clinical microbiological laboratories. The analyzes have been particularly aimed at samples from people who tested positive after staying in the UK, both recently and back in time.

– That we would find more cases of the new virus variant was expected. This shows that we have had an impact on the increased analysis work and handling of the cases, says state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell.

The new variant of the covid-19 virus, called VOC202012 / 01, has been in the UK since September. The variant is believed to have an increased spreading capability compared to other variants, but analyzes of its properties are still ongoing.

The new cases in Sweden have been discovered in several different regions. In order to capture more possible cases, the Swedish Public Health Agency will continue and intensify the work with the extended sample analyzes.

In the early January, cases were reported as they were discovered.  It appeared,from the FoHM press releases, that there were a few isolated cases in Sweden, practically all came from abroad.  As the press release states – mainly ‘samples from people who tested positive after staying in the UK’ are being analyzed.  It should then come as no surprise, that most people who had carried the mutated virus were — people who tested positive after staying in the UK.

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On January 12, FoHM reported a Total of 25 cases of the ‘British virus variant,’ in ‘various regions’ and 8 cases without travel connection. (FoHM January 12)

We get the first indication that the British mutation is spreading much more than the FoHM press releases would have us believe – from a press release from Finland!

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Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), Finland January 15

Corona mutations in Finland:

[Total] 59 British Variant

– 39 from Great Britain
– 4 from Sweden
– 3 from Ghana
– 1 each from Germany, Denmark, Norway, Estonia, Rusiia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, France, Pakistan, Ukraine, Nigeria
– 3 with no known travel connections

There is practically no British variant in Sweden, yet it is spilling over the borders from Sweden to the neighboring countries. 

Worth noting is how the Finnish report gives more of an impression that the Finns had followed the chains of transmission, and knew in detail where the infections happened.  In addition, unlike Sweden, Finland catches the cases outside these chains of transmission because they test anyone exposed, and everyone who shows symptoms.  The 3 domestic infections with no travel connection is a much more reliable indicator than the 8 Swedish, which – it seems – they just happened to catch.

Towards the end of January, it was learned that the British variant was no serious cause for concern.  During the winter, however, we saw several new mutations, and got a reminder that even as we took the first steps on a long journey to get the world population vaccinated, we are not home yet.  There will be new mutations.  The next time, will the Swedes be better prepared?  Or will they be as lucky?  Or neither?

Sweden cut testing on Friday the 13th of March, 2020.  They bet all their chips on wishful scenarios of herd immunity kicking in  — that was supposed to happen as soon as two months from the beginning of the epidemic.  They never prepared for large-scale testing, and never training any contact tracing professionals. They never set up the necessary infrastructure.  When a new mutation hits, we can expect that the Swedish reports will be based on ‘The New Strategy’ of the FoHM, announced on the 13th March 2020.  The other Nordic Countries might consider closing their borders.

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