Changing COVID Restrictions Means This Country Isn’t Giving Away Free Tests Anymore

Sweden has stopped its COVID-19 testing procedures on Wednesday, even for individuals showing symptoms of infection, as many European countries end pandemic restrictions.

The country’s mobile city-square tent sites, drive-in swab centers, and home-delivered tests, which had all been used as tools to track the virus’ spread, have been suspended. Only symptomatic health and elderly care workers, and the most vulnerable will qualify for free COVID-19 tests moving forward.

“We have reached a point where the cost and relevance of the testing are no longer justifiable,” Swedish Public Health Agency chief Karin Tegmark Wisell said. “If we were to have extensive testing adapted to everyone who has COVID-19, that would mean half a billion kronor a week (about $55 million) and 2 billion a month ($220 million).”

Private health care providers can still perform tests and offer certificates for international travel, but the cost will no longer be covered by the government or health insurance. Antigen tests are available throughout Sweden, however, the results will not be reported to health authorities.

Health officials in Sweden and other European countries are optimistic based on the high vaccination rate. Denmark rescinded all of its domestic COVID-19 restrictions on Feb. 1, while the World Health Organization(WHO) announced it foresees the continent entering a “ceasefire” with the pandemic very soon.

“Sweden is leading the way, and other nations will inevitably follow,” Dr. Bharat Pankhania, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter Medical School, said. “We don’t need extensive testing for the sake of testing, but we must look nevertheless in sensitive settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, and other sensitive places where there are very vulnerable people.”

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