How southern Sweden is planning to increase coronavirus testing

Skåne on Wednesday outlined plans to make coronavirus tests available to more people, while at the same time stating that the spread of infection is at a low level in the southern Swedish region.

How southern Sweden is planning to increase coronavirus testing
Regional director Alf Jönsson said that more tests will be done, but they must be done in a useful way. Photo: Johan Nilsson / TT

“We see no trends or signs of an increase [in cases],” the regional infectious disease physician Eva Melander told reporters on Wednesday morning.

Since the start of the outbreak, a total of around 15,000 people have been tested for the virus in Skåne.

Up until now, tests have been offered to those who required hospital care, residents of elderly care homes, and those working in the health or care sectors.

Now the region is extending its tests to include police officers and emergency service workers. This follows recent calls from the government for more workers in socially important functions outside healthcare and care to be tested. This description covers jobs that are considered to be essential in order to keep the wheels of society turning, and a list of the professions included can be found here.

The government has also recommended that people with symptoms who require medical care should be tested even if they do not need to be admitted to hospital. This applies particularly in cases where a coronavirus diagnosis would influence their treatment plan.

“We have enough capacity to increase testing in terms of equipment, laboratories and personnel. We will do tests, but tests have to be useful,” said regional director Alf Jönsson, who said there is a short time period during which tests can be carried out.

“We have a window of a short time. After 72 hours from when you start to feel sick, the tests are not as reliable. And if you want to test for antibodies, you have to wait three to four weeks before you can see that they are formed,” he explained. 

Infectious disease doctor Eva Melander said that the test numbers were set to increase “sharply” over coming weeks, and that the region was already testing staff in dentistry, outpatient care and psychiatric care, with the next step being to expand tests to police and emergency service workers.

Despite the lower level of spread of infection, and lower death toll compared to other parts of the country, Jönsson called on people in Skåne to continue following recommendations. He warned that the disease would be present for a long time to come and that there were no plans yet to extend testing to members of the public beyond the named priority groups. 

“The danger is not over. If you relax, we can get outbreaks quickly, we  and a lot of people can get sick and can die in a short time, we have seen that in different elderly homes in Skåne. So to everyone: hold on, hold out and keep your distance. Help us to save lives.”

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