Sweden halted its COVID-19 testing regime on Wednesday, even for those who are showing symptoms of infection, as many European countries end pandemic restrictions, the Associated Press reported.
The country’s mobile city-square tent sites, drive-in swab centers and home-delivered tests, which each provided key data to track the virus’ spread, have ended, the AP reported. Only symptomatic health and elderly care workers and the most vulnerable will be entitled to free PCR tests moving forward.
“We have reached a point where the cost and relevance of the testing is no longer justifiable,” Swedish Public Health Agency chief Karin Tegmark Wisell told the national broadcast SVT, the AP reported. “If we were to have extensive testing adapted to everyone who has COVID-19, that would mean half a billion kronor a week (about $55 million) and 2 billion a month ($220 million).”
Private health care providers can still perform tests and offer certificates for international travel, but the cost will not be covered by the government or health insurance, the AP reported. Antigen tests are reportedly available throughout Sweden, but their results are not reported to health authorities.
The high vaccination rate in Sweden has made health officials optimistic, as have the rates in other European countries. Denmark rescinded all of its domestic COVID-19 restrictions on Feb. 1, while the World Health Organization(WHO) predicted the continent would soon enter a “ceasefire” with the pandemic.
“Sweden is leading the way, and other nations will inevitably follow,” Dr. Bharat Pankhania, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter Medical School, told the AP. “We don’t need extensive testing for the sake of testing, but we must look nevertheless in sensitive settings such as hospitals, nursing homes and other sensitive places where there are very vulnerable people.”
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