The effect of non-pharmaceutical interventions on the demand for health care and on mortality: evidence from COVID-19 in Scandinavia
By Steffen Juranek and Floris T. Zoutman has been published in the Journal of Population Economics.
In the paper, Juranek and Zoutman study the effectiveness of lockdown measures against COVID-19 on health outcomes and deaths in Scandinavia. They focus on the early phase of the pandemic from February to July of 2020. During this period, Denmark and Norway imposed strict measures to contain the pandemic, whereas Sweden followed an extraordinarily lenient approach.
The article uses an event study to compare COVID-19 hospitalizations, intensive care (ICU) patients, and deaths in Sweden with Denmark and Norway. During the first weeks of the pandemic, these variables are on a remarkably similar trajectory in the three countries. However, the trend in Denmark and Norway diverges abruptly from the Swedish trend 2–3 weeks into the lockdown in Denmark and Norway. Hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths continue to rise in Sweden, whereas they plateau and eventually fall in Denmark and Norway. Throughout the period, the trajectory in Denmark and Norway remains remarkably similar, consistent with the fact that both countries introduced close to identical measures to contain the pandemic. Both the timing of the divergence with Sweden and the similarity in the trend between Denmark and Norway are highly consistent with a causal effect of the lockdown.
The authors use their event study setup to build a counterfactual model that predicts the outcome variables for Denmark and Norway if they had followed Sweden’s approach. In the absence of strict NPIs, the peak number of hospitalizations would have been 2.5 (3.5) times as large in Denmark (Norway). Overall, Denmark (Norway) would have had 334 (671) percent more hospital-patient days, 277 (379) percent more ICU-patient days, and 402 (1015) percent more deaths. The benefit of lockdown in terms of healthcare and mortality costs amounts to between 1 and 4 (0.9 and 3.5) percent of GDP in Denmark (Norway).
Juranek, Steffen, and Floris T. Zoutman. The effect of non-pharmaceutical interventions on the demand for health care and on mortality: evidence from COVID-19 in Scandinavia. Journal of Population Economics 34 (2021): 1-22.