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The Effect of Social Distancing Measures on Intensive Care Occupancy: Evidence on COVID-19 in Scandinavia


  • Juranek, Steffen

    (Dept. of Business and Management Science, Norwegian School of Economics)

  • Zoutman, Floris T.

    (Dept. of Business and Management Science, Norwegian School of Economics)


Understanding the effectiveness of social distancing on the spread of COVID-19 is crucial to justify economically costly social distancing measures. We present a case study focusing on the three Scandinavian countries. Whereas Denmark and Norway imposed relatively strict measures, Sweden follows an extraordinarily lenient approach. We use an event-study approach in which Sweden serves as a counterfactual to Denmark/Norway to estimate the measures’ effectiveness. We estimate that in the counterfactual in which Denmark/Norway implemented Sweden’s more lenient measures the number of hospitalizations would have peaked between around 15-20 days later. The peak number of hospitalizations in Denmark (Norway) would have been 133 (231) percent higher, and the peak number of ICU patients would have increased by 107 (140) percent.

Suggested Citation

  • Juranek, Steffen & Zoutman, Floris T., 2020. "The Effect of Social Distancing Measures on Intensive Care Occupancy: Evidence on COVID-19 in Scandinavia," Discussion Papers 2020/2, Norwegian School of Economics, Department of Business and Management Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:nhhfms:2020_002

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    Cited by:

    1. Abel Brodeur & David Gray & Anik Islam & Suraiya Bhuiyan, 2021. "A literature review of the economics of COVID‐19," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 35(4), pages 1007-1044, September.
    2. Steffen Juranek & Jörg Paetzold & Hannes Winner & Floris Zoutman, 2020. "Labor Market Effects of Covid-19 in Sweden and Its Neighbors: Evidence from Novel Administrative Data," CESifo Working Paper Series 8473, CESifo.
    3. Karolina Drela & Agnieszka Malkowska & Anna Bera & Anna Tokarz-Kocik, 2021. "Instruments for Managing the EU Labour Market in the Face of the COVID-19 Crisis," European Research Studies Journal, European Research Studies Journal, vol. 0(1), pages 984-998.
    4. Checo Ariadne & Grigoli Francesco & Mota Jose M., 2022. "Assessing Targeted Containment Policies to Fight COVID-19," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 22(1), pages 159-196, January.
    5. Nicola Raimo & Pedro-José Martínez-Córdoba & Bernardino Benito & Filippo Vitolla, 2021. "The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Labor Market: An Analysis of Supply and Demand in the Spanish Municipalities," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 13(23), pages 1-12, November.
    6. Asger Lau Andersen & Emil Toft Hansen & Niels Johannesen & Adam Sheridan, 2020. "Pandemic, Shutdown and Consumer Spending: Lessons from Scandinavian Policy Responses to COVID-19," Papers 2005.04630,
    7. Martin Huber & Henrika Langen, 2020. "Timing matters: the impact of response measures on COVID-19-related hospitalization and death rates in Germany and Switzerland," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics, Springer;Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics, vol. 156(1), pages 1-19, December.
    8. Germain Gauthier, 2021. "On the Use of Two-Way Fixed Effects Models for Policy Evaluation During Pandemics," Papers 2106.10949,
    9. Steffen Juranek & Floris T. Zoutman, 2021. "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, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 34(4), pages 1299-1320, October.
    10. Steffen Juranek & Jörg Paetzold & Hannes Winner & Floris Zoutman, 2021. "Labor market effects of COVID‐19 in Sweden and its neighbors: Evidence from administrative data," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 74(4), pages 512-526, November.
    11. Carlos B. Carneiro & I'uri H. Ferreira & Marcelo C. Medeiros & Henrique F. Pires & Eduardo Zilberman, 2020. "Lockdown effects in US states: an artificial counterfactual approach," Papers 2009.13484,, revised Feb 2021.
    12. Ulrich Glogowsky & Emanuel Hansen & Simeon Schächtele, 2020. "How Effective Are Social Distancing Policies? Evidence on the Fight against Covid-19 from Germany," CESifo Working Paper Series 8361, CESifo.
    13. Brantly Callaway & Tong Li, 2021. "Policy Evaluation during a Pandemic," Papers 2105.06927,, revised Oct 2022.

    More about this item


    COVID-19; Social Distancing; Intensive Care; Case Study;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H12 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Crisis Management
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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