Coronavirus pandemic in the Nordic countries: Health policy and economy trade-off

J Glob Health. 2022 Aug 8:12:05017. doi: 10.7189/jogh.12.05017.


Background: Countries making up the Nordic region - Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden - have minimal socioeconomic, cultural, and geographical differences between them, allowing for a fair comparative analysis of the health policy and economy trade-off in their national approaches towards mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: This study utilized publicly available COVID-19 data of the Nordic countries from January 2020 to January 3, 2021. COVID-19 epidemiology, public health and health policy, health system capacity, and macroeconomic data were analysed for each Nordic country. Joinpoint regression analysis was performed to identify changes in temporal trends using average monthly percent change (AMPC) and average weekly percent change (AWPC).

Results: Sweden's health policy, being by far the most relaxed response to COVID-19, was found to have the largest COVID-19 incidence and mortality, and the highest AWPC increases for both indicators (13.5, 95% CI = 5.6, 22.0, P < 0.001; 6.3, 95% CI = 3.5, 9.1, P < 0.001). Denmark had the highest number of COVID-19 tests per capita, consistent with their approach of increased testing as a preventive strategy for disease transmission. Iceland had the second-highest number of tests per capita due to their mass-testing, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation response. Only Norway had a significant increase in unemployment (AMPC = 2.8%, 95% CI = 0.7-4.9, P < 0.009) while the percentage change in real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was insignificant for all countries.

Conclusions: There was no trade-off between public health policy and economy during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Nordic region. Sweden's relaxed and delayed COVID-19 health policy response did not benefit the economy in the short term, while leading to disproportionate COVID-19 hospitalizations and mortality.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Pandemics* / prevention & control
  • Scandinavian and Nordic Countries / epidemiology