Coronavirus in Sweden: What you should do if someone you’ve been in contact with tests positive

Coronavirus in Sweden: What you should do if someone you've been in contact with tests positive
The virus can be spread through droplets, for example when an infected person coughs, talks or eats. Illustration photo: Gorm Kallestad /Scanpix / TT
UPDATED: Sweden has updated its advice to the public on how you should act if someone you've been in contact with has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Some of the Public Health Agency's advice, specifically on limiting close contacts, is different from what was previously recommended.

The agency has also said that the recommendations for family members of Covid-19 may be further tightened in autumn, but here's a look at what applies right now.

If someone you have met tests positive and you have symptoms

If someone who you have been in contact with tests positive for the coronavirus and you have symptoms, you should isolate yourself and arrange a Covid-19 diagnostic test.

The advice to isolate and get a coronavirus test applies even if you haven't had any contacts with a confirmed case; everyone in Sweden is urged to stay at home if you have the slightest symptoms. That includes a cough, fever, sore throat or runny nose for example.

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If someone you have met tests positive and you don't have symptoms

If someone you have been in contact with tells you they have tested positive for the coronavirus, you should be extra attentive to your symptoms and stay at home even if you experience very mild symptoms.

Even if you feel completely healthy, the Public Health Agency now says “you should still consider that you may have been infected”. This is because it may take some time for symptoms to develop, and studies suggest it is possible to pass on the virus even if you are asymptomatic, although this is thought to be much less common.

The Public Health Agency asks everyone who has been in contact with a confirmed Covid-19 patient to avoid close contacts with other people for a full 14 days after you came into contact with them. That would mean for example not having visitors to your house or meeting other people.

You should work from home if possible, advice which applies to the whole population regardless of your contacts or symptoms.

But if your job cannot normally be done from home, whether or not you are entitled to sick pay or other compensation will depend on your contract. You should speak to your manager or HR manager after finding out a contact has tested positive, so that you can find out your company policy and see if any extra leniency to work from home is possible.

If someone in your household has symptoms

If someone in your household has Covid-19 symptoms, they should isolate themselves as much as possible within the home and should take a Covid-19 test.

While waiting for the test results (and throughout the time they are symptomatic plus an extra two days, if they test positive), the Public Health Agency recommends that other members of the household keep a distance of an arm's length from the sick person, wash hands thoroughly and regularly, and be attentive to their own symptoms.

Symptom-free members of the household should also avoid close contact with other people outside the home during the 14-day incubation period, and work from home during this time if they can.

As above, if you are not usually able to work from home, it's worth speaking to your employer to find out if an exception can be made in these circumstances.

A sign in Stockholm reminds everyone to stay at home if they have any symptoms. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

What's changed? 

This advice is stricter than earlier Public Health Agency recommendations, and was published on the agency's website on the morning of Friday, September 4th. You can read the advice in full (in Swedish) here.

Up until Tuesday afternoon, the advice on the same page said that symptom-free family members should “do as normal and go to preschool, school or work, but at the same time be especially attentive to other symptoms”. 

There was also no mention of avoiding close contacts during the incubation period, and no specific advice for people who had been exposed to Covid-19 outside their household. And there was no specific recommendation for people with symptoms to get a test —  this is now being encouraged as part of a focus on test-and-trace strategies.

Later on Friday, the 1177 healthcare website and Krisinformation updated their own websites to reflect the new advice. As of Friday afternoon, 1177 said that people with family members who had tested positive should avoid close contacts for 14 days, but had no recommendation for people who had met another close contact who tested positive.

A spokesperson for 1177 told us: “We are currently in a phase where the recommendations are constantly being reviewed. This means that material on our website right now is in a process of various updates. Today the recommendations were updated.”

The Public Health Agency's guidelines for contact tracing, published on July 21st and mainly aimed at regional healthcare providers rather than the public, included the guideline that anyone who had been exposed to Covid-19 – whether or not it was someone in the same household – should avoid close contacts for 14 days and work from home if possible. 

The Local has asked the Public Health Agency for clarification on when the guidance changed to include avoiding close contacts for 14 days, but had not received a response at the time of publication.

We have also asked for clarification of whether the recommendation to work from home is stricter for people who have been in contact with a Covid-19 patient. While the entire population is advised to work from home if possible, in some workplaces employees are required to come into work on certain days or for certain meetings. 


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