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What would have happened if Sweden had imposed a lockdown?

Working paper: SITE researcher Giancarlo Spagnolo together with co-authors compare different indicators of the spread and consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, developing a novel method to adjust daily COVID-19 deaths to match weekly excess mortality. Focusing on Sweden, the only country that has good data and did not impose a lockdown. What would have happened if Sweden did impose a lockdown back in 2020?

Assessing alternative indicators for COVID-19 policy evaluation, with a counterfactual for Sweden

By Chiara Latour, Franco Peracchi and Giancarlo Spagnolo

Abstract

We compare different indicators of the spread and consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, developing a novel method to adjust daily COVID-19 deaths to match weekly excess mortality. Focusing on Sweden, the only country that has good data and did not impose a lockdown, we construct counterfactuals for what would have happened if it had imposed a lockdown, using a synthetic control method. Correcting for data problems and optimizing the synthetic control for each indicator considered, we find stronger effects than previously estimated. Most importantly, studying the ratio of positives to the number of tests, we find that a lockdown would have had sizable effects already after a week. The 3–4 weeks delay highlighted in previous studies appears mainly driven by the large changes in testing frequency that occurred in Sweden during the period considered.

Keywords: COVID-19 indicators; excess deaths; COVID-19 deaths; containment policies; lockdown; synthetic control method; Sweden

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in policy briefs, working papers and other publications are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of SITE, the FREE Network and its research institutes.

SITE COVID-19 Governance Politics Economics Working paper

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