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UMEÅ

Mass Covid-19 testing at Swedish university to investigate infection rate

Starting this week, 20,000 people will be mass tested for Covid-19 in the northern Swedish city of Umeå.

Mass Covid-19 testing at Swedish university to investigate infection rate
A lab engineer prepares a Covid-19 test. File photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

The study at Umeå University has been organised to investigate how ordinary teaching on university campuses affects the spread of infection.

Over two weeks, 20,000 students and university employees will be tested twice – making it Sweden's largest such test so far. The Public Health Agency, National Pandemic Centre, and Swedish army will assist in carrying out the tests.

“It's a big experiment,” Anders Johansson, a researcher specialising in infectious diseases, told Swedish television.

“We test in the first week to see how many have the infection, and then when everyone meets a week later we test how many have caught it.”

As well as being tested twice using self-tests, participants will also be able to fill out optional questionnaires about their symptoms. Anyone with symptoms consistent with coronavirus can take the test at home and have it collected, so that they can follow public health advice to avoid leaving home if sick.

The results will be interesting given the fact that the infection rate has been rising in many countries as they continue opening up society. In Sweden, although there was never a lockdown of the kind seen in most other places, there are concerns about what the autumn will mean for the development of the disease as people return to their places of work and study.

Universities and schools for over-16s switched to remote learning in late March, and although they have been given the green light to welcome students back to campus for the autumn term, many are continuing to offer mostly online learning.

In many countries including Sweden, the disease is now mostly seen to be spreading among young people. 

Although young healthy people are typically less likely to get seriously ill from the coronavirus, one concern is that if the virus spreads among this group it will then be passed on to the more vulnerable members of the population.

The Public Health Agency has said that the results of the Umeå tests could be used “among other things, to give a basis for targeted measures, analysis and modelling”.

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COVID-19

New Covid-19 wave in Sweden ‘to peak at end of September’

Sweden's Public Health Agency has warned of a new autumn wave of Covid-19 which it expects to peak at the end of September.

New Covid-19 wave in Sweden 'to peak at end of September'

According to both of the two new scenarios published by the agency on Monday, infection rates are set to rise steadily over the next month, something the agency said was due to a falling immunity in the population and greater contact between people as they return to schools and workplaces after the summer. 

“It is difficult to say how high the peak will be, but it is unlikely that it will reach the same levels as in January and February,” the agency’s unit chief Sara Byfors said in a press release. “The most important thing is that people in risk groups and those who are 65 years old and above get vaccinated with a booster dose in the autumn to reduce the risk of serious illness and death.” 

Under Scenario 0, the amount of contact between people stays at current levels, leading to a peak in reported Covid-19 cases at around 5,000 a day. In Scenario 1, contact between people increases by about 10 percent from the middle of August, leading to a higher peak of about 7,000 reported cases a day. 

The agency said that employers should be prepared for many staff to be off sick simultaneously at points over the next month, but said in its release that it did not judge the situation to be sufficiently serious to require either it or the government to impose additional infection control measures. 

It was important, however, it said, that those managing health and elderly care continued to test those with symptoms and to track the chain of infections, that people go and get the booster doses when they are supposed to have under the vaccination programme, and that those who have symptoms of Covid-19 stay home. 

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