Sweden asks Public Health Agency to increase coronavirus testing

Sweden asks Public Health Agency to increase coronavirus testing
Health Minister Lena Hallengren, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Deputy PM Isabella Lövin at today's press conference. Photo:Jonas Ekströmer/TT
The Swedish government has asked the Public Health Agency to work out a national strategy to increase testing for the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven noted that Sweden was carrying out testing at a similar level to other “comparable countries”, and said that more than 36,000 people had been tested for the virus in Sweden as of a few days ago.

The government has now asked the Public Health Agency (Folkhälsomyndigheten) to quickly draw up a national strategy to increase testing, prioritising patients and workers in the healthcare sector.

The main goal of increasing tests is to find out if people in essential jobs, such as healthcare and the emergency services, have the virus or have had it and may now be immune. 

“First, more people who have isolated themselves can come back to work if the test shows that they don't have the coronavirus. That means better conditions for [workers in] healthcare, social care, and other sectors to go back to their work,” Health Minister Lena Hallengren said at the same press conference on Tuesday afternoon.

She said however that there won't be sufficient numbers of tests to mean that “everyone who wants a test” will be able to have one. 

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At the same press conference, the government announced a new national ban on visits to elderly care homes. 

This followed earlier recommendations from the Public Health Agency to avoid all non-essential visits to the elderly, and some regions have introduced their own bans. This is because old age, and in particular being over 70, is seen as the foremost risk factor for the coronavirus.

But Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin said: “The government sees a need for uniformity.”

The ban on visits to elderly care homes will come into force on Wednesday, April 1st.

Prime Minister Löfven also used the press conference to remind people in Sweden of individual responsibility in fighting the spread of the coronavirus.

“The thing that has the biggest impact is the effort that each and every one of us can make every day,” said Löfven.

“Every Swede has the duty to protect themselves with the aim of protecting others. Cancel trips over Easter. Stay at home if you experience the slightest symptoms. Stay at home if you are over 70 or belong to another risk group.”

The prime minister also asked parents to avoid the Easter tradition of children asking for sweets at neighbouring houses, saying “there will be other Easters”.

And he warned: “It is highly likely that the situation will get worse before it gets better. The next few weeks will be decisive.”


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