Sweden says it aims to test 100,000 people a week for coronavirus

Sweden says it aims to test 100,000 people a week for coronavirus as number of new infections continues to rise, with 676 cases yesterday

  • Tests will be rolled out over coming weeks and primarily target those in key roles 
  • There have now been 13,216 coronavirus cases in Sweden, with 1,400 deaths
  • On Friday there were 67 deaths, down from 130 yesterday and 170 on Thursday
  • The country is continuing to hold out against a national lockdown  
  • Gatherings of more than 50 people are banned and nursing home visits barred
  • Bars, restaurants and shops are still open, along with primary schools 
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

The Swedish government is planning to carry out 100,000 coronavirus tests a week as the number of cases in the country continues to rise.

There were 676 cases yesterday, bringing the total to 13,216 with 1,400 deaths, but there were no signs that the current softer stance towards curbing COVID-19 will be dropped. 

Sweden is continuing to hold out against a national lockdown despite growing criticism and calls for ‘rapid and radical measures’ to contain the outbreak. 

The Swedish government is planning to carry out 100,000 coronavirus tests a week as the number of cases in the country continues to rise

The new testing regime will be rolled out over coming weeks and primarily target those in key roles, such as police and firefighters.

Patients with severe symptoms and healthcare personnel who are already prioritised will also be tested, to allow them to return to work faster after showing symptoms.

‘We are talking about testing and analysis capacity of 50,000, perhaps as many as 100,000, a week,’ health minister Lena Hallengren told a press conference.

So far almost 75,000 people have been tested in Sweden, Hallengren said.

The latest case total marks the biggest 24-hour jump since 722 new infections were added to the tally a week ago.

There were also 67 new deaths on Friday, down from 130 yesterday. Yesterday’s was the second highest after Wednesday’s figure of 170. 

The Public Health Agency said it had looked at the whole testing chain and would involve others, such as employers, to collect samples via take-home kits and private sector companies to help analysis. 

On Thursday, Sweden reported 12,540 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,333 deaths. 

There were 676 cases yesterday, bringing the total to 13,216 with 1,400 deaths, but there were no signs that the current softer stance towards curbing COVID-19 will be dropped 

Sweden has not imposed the extraordinary lockdown measures seen across Europe, instead urging people to take responsibility and follow official recommendations.

The government has banned gatherings of more than 50 people and barred visits to nursing homes.

Bars, restaurants and shops are still open, along with primary schools and the government has emphasised taking ‘personal responsibility’ for social distancing rather than enforcing it. 

‘People in Sweden have a high level of trust in government agencies. This means that a large proportion of people follow government agencies’ advice,’ officials say. 

‘In the current situation, people in Sweden are on the whole acting responsibly to reduce the spread of infection by, for example, restricting their social contacts.

‘This crisis may continue for a long time, and in order for the measures to work over time, people need to understand and accept them.’

Sweden has not imposed the extraordinary lockdown measures seen across Europe, instead urging people to take responsibility and follow official recommendations 

However, the government has faced growing criticism as its death rate leaps ahead of that in Finland, Denmark and Norway. 

‘The authorities and the government stupidly did not believe that the epidemic would reach Sweden at all,’ claimed Bo Lundback, professor of epidemiology at the University of Gothenburg. 

Lundback and 21 other researchers urged the government to reconsider and institute ‘rapid and radical measures’ in a joint newspaper article on Tuesday.

‘Sweden was poorly or even not at all prepared,’ Lundback said. 

People sit outdoors in Stockholm at the weekend, with Swedish authorities still holding out against imposing a lockdown 

Last week, health officials announced 40 percent of deaths in the Stockholm region – the epicentre of the epidemic – could be traced to retirement and care homes.

Even with measures targeting these institutions, half of the retirement homes in the capital have had cases of the virus.

One-third of the country’s municipalities had reported cases in retirement homes, public radio reported in early April.

The government has had trouble explaining the outbreaks.

‘We still don’t quite know the reason, but there aren’t too many things to choose from,’ Health Minister Lena Hallengren said earlier this month.

‘Either the ban on visits hasn’t been enforced or staff with symptoms, or that didn’t think they had symptoms, have gone to work,’ she wrote. 

Sweden has also vowed to spend more than 100billion kronor (£8billion) to address the economic impact of the pandemic. 

Despite the lack of a lockdown, the Swedish economy is expected to shrink by around four per cent this year.  

Sweden has also vowed to spend more than 100billion kronor (£8billion) to address the economic impact of the pandemic

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