EXPLAINED: Who should get a Covid-19 test in Sweden?

a man getting tested for Covid with a cotton swab
Sweden has again changed its guidelines for Covid-19 testing. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
Sweden tightened its Covid-19 testing recommendations once again on November 30th. Here's what applies to everyone now.

Symptoms of a respiratory infection

Everyone aged six and older who develops symptoms of a respiratory infection should get tested for Covid, even if they are fully vaccinated.

Such symptoms may be mild, but they include a sore throat, blocked nose, fever, cough or generally feeling under the weather.

They should also, as before, stay at home from work or school and avoid contact with other people.

Only children younger than six and adults who have had a confirmed Covid-19 infection in the past six months are exempt from the testing recommendation.

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Even if you test negative for Covid-19, Sweden’s Public Health Agency still advises you to stay home from work or school, to avoid spreading seasonal viruses such as RSV (a respiratory virus that can be dangerous for young babies) and influenza.

You can read more about Covid-19 tests on Swedish healthcare website 1177.se, and to see your regional information, click välj region (“choose region”) at the top of the page.

Household contacts

The above recommendations were reintroduced on November 22nd, but on November 25th, the Public Health Agency updated the recommendations further. A person who lives with someone who’s tested positive for Covid should also get tested, regardless of whether you have symptoms or not and regardless of whether you are vaccinated or not.

If you have symptoms yourself, you should get tested immediately. If you don’t have symptoms, you should get tested five days after the positive member of your household got their test. Children under the age of six need not get tested, but should stay at home.

All members of the household should stay at home. If you don’t have symptoms and your test is negative, you can resume social contact and return to work or school seven days after the positive member of your household tested positive, according to the new guidelines.

New rules for travellers

In addition to the recommendations listed above, new recommendations for travellers were introduced on November 30th.

Now, all travellers who have visited a non-Nordic country in the last week before arriving in Sweden are encouraged to get tested for Covid-19 as soon as possible after arriving in Sweden, preferably the same day, if possible.

These guidelines apply to both vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers, as well as those who have had Covid-19 in the last six months, and those who provided evidence of a negative test when entering the country.

These recommendations do not apply to children under the age of six.

In addition to this, everyone arriving in Sweden from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia or Eswatini is urged to get a Covid-19 test on the day of arrival or as soon as possible, as well as a second test after five days.

Furthermore, all travellers from the above countries should stay home for seven days upon arrival in Sweden, irrespective of vaccination status, whether they are experiencing symptoms or not. These recommendations also apply to children, regardless of age.

New recommendations

The new recommendations came less than a month after Sweden decided to stop free Covid-19 tests for fully vaccinated people, arguing at the time that widescale testing was no longer necessary due to lower infection rates.

The Public Health Agency said that that decision to resume free tests for the vaccinated partly reflected “growing infection rates in many European countries”, and partly the agency’s prognosis that Sweden will see a “probable increase” in infections in the coming weeks.

“Taken altogether, this means that a return to large-scale testing is considered an appropriate measure,” the agency said.

“It increases the possibility of detecting even small changes in the epidemiology, and is also increases the possibility of breaking further chains of infection as early as possible.”

The original decision to scale back testing on November 1st was heavily criticised, with even Jan Albert, a Karolinska Institute professor who has been a strong supporter of the Public Health Agency, telling the TT newswire at the time that he thought the decision a mistake.

This article was originally published on November 1st, but was updated on November 30th to reflect Sweden’s changing testing rules.

Member comments

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  1. Differentiated testings for vaccinated and vaccinated in perhaps fueling the last wave in Europe. In my opinion properly accounting cases of covid of any person will lead to better medical and social heath.

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