Sweden has seen a sharp drop in covid-19 tests this month, just as large parts of Europe are struggling with rising infection rates, after its health authority said that vaccinated Swedes no longer need to be tested even if they have symptoms of the disease.
The health authority’s position has resurfaced criticism that the country has once again broken the ranking with its neighbors and has led to some of Sweden’s regions no longer providing free testing for everyone.
Covid-19 tests decreased by 35 percent last week compared to a month earlier.
It places Sweden at the bottom of the EU together with countries such as Germany, Spain, Poland and Finland, according to Our World in Data.
The health authority claims that the resources for testing could be used better elsewhere and that there is no need to test those who are fully vaccinated because they have a low risk of becoming ill and are less likely to spread the disease.
But the timing of the decision, just as Europe is entering the winter season, has puzzled some researchers.
A new newspaper column said: “Sweden is in the dark again” about the spread and the ability to break disease chains.
– The number of cases is low in Sweden, but considering what the outside world looks like with lots of cases in Europe, I think one should have waited with this decision, says Anders Sonnerborg, professor of clinical virology and infectious diseases at Karolinska Institutet.
“I have a hard time seeing that waiting a few months would be a major intervention in people’s lives,” he said.
On Thursday, the health authority’s official Sara Byfors defended the decision that testing would still be at a high enough level to capture trends and that testing had never captured all cases.
“If we see that the spread of infection increases and that it becomes a problem, we are prepared to change our decision,” she said at a press conference.
The number of hospital admissions and patients being treated in intensive care units has begun to creep up in recent weeks but is still the lowest in the EU per capita, according to Our World in Data.
Sweden’s handling of the pandemic has stuck out, avoided deadlocks throughout the health crisis and instead relied on voluntary measures based on distancing and good hygiene.
The country’s death toll per capita since the beginning of the pandemic is several times higher than among Nordic neighbors, but also lower than in most European countries that have chosen strict locks.
Australian Associated Press