Swedish health agency reverses decision to scale back testing after criticism

Karin Tegmark Wisell gives a press conference on taking up her position as the director general of the Public Health Agency of Sweden. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT
Sweden's public health agency has reversed a controversial decision to stop recommending that the fully vaccinated get tested if they have Covid-19 symptoms, with regional health authorities advised to start offering free tests again from next Monday.

In a press release, the agency said that the decision partly reflected “growing infection rates in many European countries”, and partly the agency’s prognosis that Sweden will see a “probable increase” in Covid-19 infections in the coming weeks, with Västmanland and Örebro already reporting rising cases numbers.

“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 has been heavily criticised, with even Jan Albert, a Karolinska Institute professor who has been a strong supporter of the agency, telling the TT newswire he thought the decision a mistake.

Karin Tegmark Wisell, the agency’s new general director, argued in an interview on November 6th that it was no longer “fit-for-purpose to test so broadly”. 

READ ALSO: Why is Sweden cutting testing as Europe enters a new Covid-19 wave?

Sweden currently has one of the lowest test rates in Europe, making it difficult to know if it is at the start of a similar surge in infections as those seen in next-door Denmark, Norway, and Finland.

Under the new testing recommendations, those who have tested positive for Covid-19 within the past six months and recovered, are still not recommended to get tested if they have symptoms, but everyone else over the age of six, regardless of their vaccination status, is recommended to get a test.

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