Who can get tested?
Coronavirus tests in Sweden are carried out under a priority system that works in tiers.
People in tier one, or the highest priority, has previously been those patients in need of hospital care, who belong to groups at most risk of serious illness from the virus, and residents of care homes or institutions.
The second tier is staff working in the medical or care sector.
And the third tier is staff in socially important functions outside healthcare and care – the jobs that are considered to be critical services and most essential in order to keep the wheels of society turning.
But the top priority group is now being expanded to include those who need any care, even if they are not admitted to hospital. That applies to patients with symptoms who seek care at a doctor's surgery, for example.
And there will now be an increased focus on the third priority group, those working in critical services.
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How do authorities decide which services are 'critical'?
According to MSB, around 150,000 to 200,000 people in Sweden are in these socially important roles. The agency describes these jobs as those which “could cause disturbances to society if their operations are stopped or disrupted”.
So by testing people in these roles who have mild symptoms, those who test negative for the coronavirus can return to work rather than following current recommendations to stay at home with even the slightest symptoms.
Some people in critical roles are already being tested for the coronavirus. At the moment, the focus is on staff in critical functions but where the role is also “critically dependent on staff in order to keep operations at an acceptable level”.
MSB says that within the group of critical services, there are three stages of priority. Highest on the list for testing are people who work in a critical function which is critically dependent on staff, and whose function is also relevant for the handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Next priority goes to those who work in a critical function which is critically dependent on staff, and after that tests can be rolled out to the remaining staff in critical functions.
Which jobs are included?
These are some of the main categories of jobs considered to be critical functions:
People working in the emergency services, such as police, firefighters, prison staff
People working in the supply and distribution of electricity, gas, drinking water, and sewer systems
Transport workers, including people working in air, boat, rail and road traffic
People working in the manufacturing of medical materials and devices
- People working in the delivery and distribution of mail, food, and wholesale goods
Who makes the final call on who gets a test?
Whether or not an individual gets tested depends on several factors. When it comes to those who seek medical care but are not hospitalised, doctors will weigh up the severity of symptoms and whether a coronavirus diagnosis would affect the treatment plan in the decision of whether to refer them for a test.
“In some cases the answer from the doctor will be that there is no reason to test, and in other cases the doctor might think that 'if I know if you have Covid or not, I'm going to change my treatment in this situation'. Then [a test] can be relevant,” explained Karin Tegmark Wisell, head of the Public Health Agency's department for microbiology.
When will testing be available for the whole population?
The fourth and final group on the priority list as it currently stands is the remaining population.
Sweden is a long way off having the ability to carry out tests on this group. The country carried out 32,700 tests last week – up from around 29,000 the week before but still well below the goal of 50,000-100,000 that has been set by the government.
The capacity is there in laboratories, but testing coordinators have reported “logistical problems” in getting the tests carried out in practice.