Sweden halts massive COVID-19 testing program
Sweden has paused testing sites for COVID-19, a move that signals the country will begin to consider treating the coronavirus as endemic, according to The Associated Press.
The European country has paused testing even for people showing symptoms of an infection, putting an end to mobile city-square tent sites, drive-in swab centers and home-delivered tests.
“We have reached a point where the cost and relevance of the testing is no longer justifiable,” Swedish Public Health Agency chief Karin Tegmark Wisell told the national broadcast SVT this week, according to the AP.
Tegmark Wisell added that it would cost the country about $55 million a week and $220 million per month to continue testing measures for everyone who contracts COVID-19.
Sweden has said it will provide free PCR tests to health care and elderly care workers and vulnerable people if they are symptomatic starting Wednesday.
The general population that shows COVID-19 symptoms will be asked to stay at home rather than test, the AP added.
The director of the World Health Organization’s Europe office, Hans Kluge, said Thursday that the region is entering a “plausible endgame” as COVID-19 deaths have begun to decrease.
Kluge said health authorities should be able to control any new variant that may emerge, noting that spring “leaves us with the possibility for a long period of tranquility and a much higher level of population defense against any resurgence in transmission,” the AP reported.
The news comes as Sweden joined other European countries in announcing last week that it will remove coronavirus restrictions starting Feb. 9.
“It is time to open Sweden again,” said Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, adding that “the pandemic is not over but has entered a totally new phase.”
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