In an youtube interview Prof. Johan Giesecke says that one of the reasons why Sweden is not worried about the UK-style scenarios for Covid-19 is that Sweden has tripled its ICU capacity (which the [UK] Imperial College paper [he deems responsible for the U-turn in UK policy] assumed as static.)

Is this claim of tripled ICU capacity in Sweden true? (And does it depend on some more relaxed definition of ICU?)

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    I am interested if that is at all unusual across countries. I know local hospitals have been rearranging their wards since at least early March in preparation, and I found a paper calculating Australia could almost triple their capacity based on the resources they had (which is different to saying they did that).
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Apr 26, 2020 at 3:33
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    It should be noted that if your ICU capacity was so low that it would be totally consumed during the exponential stage (say, with cases doubling every three days) of the epidemic, then doubling capacity buys you only those three days Commented Apr 26, 2020 at 11:48
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    @HagenvonEitzen: While you are right, it only buys you 3 days until it is full, that's the wrong metric on whether it is a worthwhile effort. It's doubling the number of lives saved (during the entire peak period)
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Apr 26, 2020 at 18:01
  • @HagenvonEitzen, (a) adding 100% daily is unrealistic; in the exponential stage, the number is about 25% daily. (b) at peak, the cases are not increasing exponentially; they are increasing approximately linearly (c) as Oddthinking points out, "days" is not really a meaningful measure anyway. Commented Apr 27, 2020 at 2:29

1 Answer 1


Exaggerated. According to Socialstyrelsen (the government agency in charge of the health care system), the intensive care capacity of regular hospitals has slightly more than doubled: From 526 places before the crisis to 1131 places as of April 24. Source: Socialstyrelsen. Of those places, 533 are currently used for patients with Covid-19.

Note that this does not include the capacity from military tent hospitals that are not yet in use. The number of ICU places with ventilators they will have is unclear, but appears to be around 50-100 in total according to media reports, which is not enough to satisfy the claim of three times as many.

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    Note that adding beds and equipment is the "easy" part. Then comes the hard part: staff, as evidenced by the Nightingale hospital in the UK.
    – jcaron
    Commented Apr 25, 2020 at 23:33
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    2.2x isn't 3x, but it's still a lot. "Somewhat true" Commented Apr 26, 2020 at 4:20
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    @PaulDraper That's why I rated it as an exaggeration rather than false. The spirit of the statement, that ICU capacity has increased considerably, is true.
    – user141592
    Commented Apr 26, 2020 at 5:15
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    @jcaron These beds are staffed. They have moved doctors and nurses from other units to the ICU. Basically everything elective and not urgent has been cancelled to free up staff.
    – user141592
    Commented Apr 26, 2020 at 5:16
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    if you "round it up" it's true :p
    – hanshenrik
    Commented Apr 26, 2020 at 15:32

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