Sweden scraps free Covid testing as it lifts pandemic restrictions
Sweden lifted almost all of its pandemic restrictions on Wednesday and ended mass testing for the virus, joining a growing list of countries relaxing curbs and learning to live with the virus despite high numbers of infections.
From Wednesday, Sweden will only provide free Covid-19 PCR tests to healthcare workers, elderly care workers and clinically vulnerable people who show symptoms of the disease.
people outside these groups, even if they are symptomatic, will not be able to get a free test but will be asked to stay at home.
Karin Tegmark Wisell, who heads the country’s public health authority, told TV channel SVT that the country “has reached a point where the cost and relevance of testing is no longer justifiable.” according to to AP News.
Tegmark Wisell said maintaining the mass testing program would cost the country around $220 million a month.
Sweden also lifted almost all of its pandemic restrictions on Wednesday, including limits on how many people can gather at events, vaccination certificates for some indoor events and reduced opening hours for bars, although the government still advises unvaccinated Swedes to avoid crowded places.
In a press conference announcing the lifting of the restrictions in early February, Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said it is “time to open up Sweden”. Andersson added: “The pandemic is not over, but it is entering a new phase.”
The UK and Scandinavia – Sweden, Denmark and Norway – are now almost completely free of Covid restrictions as the countries prepare to move beyond the pandemic. Although infections remain high, hospitalizations are relatively low, something officials say justifies treating Covid-19 as we do other everyday illnesses such as seasonal flu. Experts warn that the approach is premature and paints an overly optimistic picture of what “living with Covid” actually means, as well as fundamentally misunderstanding what it means for a disease to be endemic.
What to look for
Data gaps. Mass Covid testing has been an important tool for tracking the pandemic, identifying new variants and helping people know when to isolate. Although rapid antigen tests are readily available to buy in Sweden, they cannot provide the fine-grained information useful to experts monitoring the virus and the results will not be reported to health authorities. The high cost of testing may lead many countries to take a similar path and Denmark will close free testing at the beginning of March.
Sweden ends covid-19 testing when pandemic restrictions are lifted (AP News)
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