According to the Associated Press (AP), Sweden's mobile city-square tent sites, drive-in swab centers and home-delivered PCR tests provided key data to track the spread of COVID-19 before the testing scheme was halted. Only hospital workers, elderly care facility staff and the most vulnerable who show COVID-19 symptoms will be entitled to free PCR tests moving forward.
While COVID-19 antigen tests are available throughout the Scandinavian country, their results are not reported to Swedish health authorities. The AP report added that private health care providers can still perform PCR tests and offer certificates for international travel. However, both the government and health insurance will not cover the cost of these procedures.
Karin Tegmark Wisell, director-general of the Swedish Public Health Agency, defended the decision to narrow down the free testing scheme. "We have reached a point where the cost and relevance of the testing are no longer justifiable. If we were to have extensive testing adapted to everyone who has COVID-19, that would mean half a billion kronor ($54 million) a week and two billion kronor ($219 million) a month," she told state broadcaster SVT.
AP said the Stockholm region alone spent more than $320 million on PCR tests in 2021, The money could have been better spent elsewhere, according to the Swedish government.
Dr. Bharat Pankhania of the University of Exeter Medical School in the United Kingdom lauded the Scandinavian country for its move. "Sweden is leading the way and other nations will inevitably follow. 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 places where there are very vulnerable people," he said.
Pankhania added that "an informed, educated and knowledgeable population" can be trusted to isolate themselves the moment they show COVID-19 symptoms. This, he argued, eliminates the need for "wholesale testing that is not going to be value for money." (Related: More foolish examples of widespread COVID-19 testing.)
Sweden's previous use of the PCR test to determine if someone has COVID-19 appeared to be an imprudent move. It made headlines for its hands-off response, eschewing lockdowns or business closures. Sweden's reliance on individual responsibility to address the spread of SARS-CoV-2 contributed to the country's low COVID-19 mortality rate compared with other European countries that locked down.
Kary Mullis, the inventor of the PCR test, spoke out against how his creation was utilized. He pointed out that the tests can be amplified – making them unreliable for diagnostic testing. The Nobel Prize-winning scientist who died in August 2019 aptly described the PCR test as a process "to make a whole lot of something out of something."
"With PCR, if you do it well – you can find almost anything on anybody. Because if you can amplify one single molecule up to something that you can really measure, which PCR can do, then there's just very few molecules that you don't have. That could be thought of as a misuse of it, just to claim that it's meaningful."
Mullis noted that the PCR test allows scientists to "take a very minuscule amount of anything and make it measurable, and then talk about it like it is important." He continued: "It doesn't tell you that you're sick. It doesn't tell you that the thing you ended up with really was going to hurt you or anything like that."
Watch Kary Mullis in the video below explaining what the PCR test is all about.
This video is from the Contrainfo channel on Brighteon.com.
Pandemic.news has more about large-scale COVID-19 testing in Sweden and other countries worldwide.