Contact tracing: What to do if your colleague tests positive for Covid in Sweden

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 2 Mar, 2021 Updated Tue 2 Mar 2021 16:34 CEST
Contact tracing: What to do if your colleague tests positive for Covid in Sweden
20170220 - Kvinnliga programmerare på ett utvecklingsföretag Foto: Henrik Montgomery / TT / kod 10060

Sweden's Public Health Agency on Tuesday announced changes to its workplace contact tracing guidelines, meaning that more close contacts of infected staff members will be tested.


It comes as the agency's state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell warned that Sweden was heading into a third wave, with a fast increase in new cases of Covid-19.

Under the updated recommendations, people who have had close contact with a colleague who tests positive for the coronavirus should be tested even if they themselves do not have symptoms. Close contacts are defined as anyone who spent more than 15 minutes over the course of a day (not necessarily 15 consecutive minutes) within two metres' distance from the person with Covid-19, up to 48 hours before the person with Covid-19 first experienced symptoms.

All close contacts should be tested "quickly on the first day" after they have been identified as a contact, and tested a second time five days later.

As before, anyone who does have symptoms is expected to stay at home, get tested and isolate.


However, people who have had close contact with someone who tests positive are still not required to isolate if they do not have any symptoms. They agency's recommendations state that they should work from home if possible while awaiting their test results, but if that is not possible, they "can be in the workplace but be careful to keep their distance". In this case they should take three coronavirus tests in total, including one on the third day (two days after the first test).

"We want to extend testing so that close contacts to a detected case in the workplace are tested, even if they have no symptoms. This is already done when it comes to major outbreaks, but now we want testing to take place even if it is an isolated case," Tegnell said.

This change to the recommendations does not apply to work in a healthcare setting, where different procedures including increased testing are already in place. In school and education settings, the new guidelines apply to adult staff and teachers as well as students at upper secondary schools (gymnasiet, usually aged 16-18) but not to students at preschool, primary school or lower secondary school.

Everyone in Sweden is currently expected to work from home to the extent possible – and employers should be facilitating this – but in some jobs this is not feasible.

Workplaces have long been cited by Swedish health authorities as a major location of Covid-19 transmission (which is usually based on individuals stating where they thought they were infected) and workplaces have been the epicentre of recent outbreaks, for example in northern Sweden at battery manufacturing company Northvolt.

Contact tracing is managed at the regional level in Sweden, which means that different regions have different procedures for how they carry it out. 

Among the general public, testing for Covid-19 is available through public healthcare if you have symptoms, have had close contact with someone infected, or have returned from travel overseas.


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