Sweden took a laissez-faire approach to COVID-19 while their neighbors shut down public life and sealed the borders. It looks like we're finally seeing the results. (Graph is cumulative deaths: Sweden yellow, Denmark red, Norway blue; screenshot from /r/Denmark) pic.twitter.com/Jg1qfqo1Ei— Connor Harris (@cmhrrs) March 30, 2020
Note that the number of deaths began rising at essentially the same time in all three countries (around March 14), so it's not as though one curve has exploded higher because it's had more time than the others to grow. If you want to begin counting time from "the date when the number of dead hit 10," that too is the same day in both Sweden and Denmark (March 18). Also note that the initial number of deaths is about the same in all three countries (around 5), so it's not as though one curve has exploded higher because it had a gigantic number of initial deaths that only got worse and worse.
(Norway is a separate case, since their date of reaching 10 dead lagged behind the other two, around March 23 or 24. That's 5 or 6 more days, and since the doubling time for this coronavirus is around 3-6 days, Norway's dead could wind up the same as Denmark's, for the same number of days after the epidemic claimed 10 dead. Hopefully their elites are not as callous as in Sweden, and they get spared the worse of the two cases.)
The latest figures say that Sweden has 180 deaths, Denmark 90, and Norway 39. Recently, Sweden has tended to have twice as many deaths as Denmark.
This damning indictment of open borders during a pandemic has forced the rationalizers to scramble for an excuse. They have never studied math or biology, let alone both at the same time, but they have spent a lifetime reading science-affiliating data dorks on the internet. So what's the first excuse they hit on? Adjusting for population size! The data above are sheer numbers of dead people, not their rate per capita. "After all," Sweden has twice as many people as Denmark. Ergo, it's only natural to discover that they have twice as many dead, revealing the death rate per capita to be the same for both countries.
This is cargo-cult data analysis -- whenever you see a sheer count for some group, automatically adjust it for the population size of that group. Don't think about whether or not it makes sense -- it always makes sense, because it's one of those magical rituals that purifies the data. Data, unadjusted by some analyst, can only begin in a polluted state, and need to be purified by his magic spells.
The view of "controlling for population size" is like saying there's a giant gun pointed at the entire population of Sweden, and the entire population of Denmark, all at the same time, and when the gun fires its one big shot, it kills say 5% of what it's aimed at. Pull the trigger, and 5% of Sweden dies, along with 5% of Denmark. But since Sweden has twice as many people, it will have twice as many total deaths.
But that is not how the growth process works for epidemics -- or any exponential growth process, for that matter. The contagious disease is not targeting the entire population at the same time, and it does not do its thing all at once. Contagious diseases are contagious -- they have to start somewhere, and then work their way out from the starting point, at some growth rate. The initial number of infecteds has to pass it on to the next round of infecteds, and so on and so forth.
To take a numerical example, suppose it starts with 1 person, and then doubles with each step of time (it doesn't have to be a day -- it's however long it takes to double in size). So it goes: 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, etc. In these 10 time steps, it's multiplied by about 1000 (from 1 to 1024).
That's how it will proceed in any country -- it starts with 1 initial infected and multiplies by 2 after each time step. It has nothing to do with total population size, because at first the disease only "sees" the first infected, and then it "sees" double that number, and double that number, and so on. It does not, and cannot, "see" the entire population beyond these initial rounds of infecteds. It's spreading from person to person, and has no point of view from which to survey the entire population.
It is not supplying a demand, as though a cell phone company saw the entire population size of the two countries, and ordered twice as many cell phones to supply the Swedish market as the Danish market. There is no national-level disease source that is supplying twice as many viruses to Sweden as to Denmark, in order to accommodate their higher population size. It's just blindly moving from one infected individual to the next, without a clue as to how far its reach, in sheer numbers, will eventually extend by the end of the epidemic.
To put it more bluntly, remember those 10 time steps during which it rose from 1 to 1000? What would it matter if the population within which it's spreading were 1 million or 10 million? It's only growing to 1000 -- not even close to exhausting the "smaller" population of 1 million, so what good would it do the virus to have an additional 9 million people in the overall population? They would be useless for fueling greater growth in the larger population.
It does matter if the population size is 100, or 1000, or something small. Then there's no way it can complete all 10 time steps and reach 1024 infecteds. But if you're talking 100K, let alone millions, 10s of millions, billions, etc. -- then no, differences in population size do not help or hinder it from reaching a certain number of infecteds, during the early stage.
When it eventually reaches its peak -- let's say at 50% of the population (hopefully nowhere near that close in our case) -- then of course population size matters. If it eventually peaks at 50% in both Sweden and Denmark, then it will have produced twice as many infecteds in Sweden. If the death rate among infecteds is the same for both countries, then Sweden will also have twice as many deaths at that later stage. But not in the early stage, which we're still in for awhile.
Worse for the rationalizers, we don't even know that the peak percentage of the population that gets infected (and separately, who die) will be the same for Sweden and Denmark. It's not necessarily a matter of Sweden ultimately reaching the same maximum per capita rate as Denmark will, only getting there faster. It could be that Sweden will reach a higher maximum in the per capita rate of infecteds (and so, of deaths). If so, then its exploding numbers in this early stage are a harbinger of a much more dire situation at its peak, compared to Denmark at its eventual peak.
For now, all we know is that it's spreading faster in Sweden than in Denmark, because the initial number of infecteds was essentially the same in both countries, and the process started about the same time in each country. In the equation for exponential growth, the number at any given time is only a function of the initial number, the amount of time that's passed, and the growth rate. That leaves only the growth rate as differing between Sweden and Denmark, if Sweden has become so much worse off by now.
Denmark closed its borders on March 15, and the effects take about two weeks to observe, given the time to catch the disease, show symptoms, and then die. Within two weeks of this divergence in public policy, the divergence in number of dead was clearly evident. Swedish elites chose to sacrifice their people on the alter of libertarianism and open borders, while the realigning Social Democrats in Denmark have begun fusing populism with nationalism (meaning, anti-globalism), and have saved a good fraction of their citizens who would have surely perished if the elites had followed the open borders model.
My guess is that, after conceding the point on this matter, the rationalizers will next grasp for the excuse that open borders only caused deaths to double, rather than amp up by a full order of magnitude or more. As long as your policy decision only kills 9.99 times as many people as the alternative, what can the peons possibly complain about? They're practically the same outcomes!