Swedish government pledges 5.9 billion SEK for more virus testing

STOCKHOLM, June 4 (Reuters) - Sweden has entered the post-peak phase in the COVID-19 pandemic and will start doing more extensive testing, the government said on Thursday, pledging an additional 5.9 billion crowns ($633.54 million) to ramp up tracing of cases.

The government said all people with symptoms will be tested, while it will also run large-scale antibody-tests to see who has had the virus.

“We’re entering post-peak phase in the pandemic. It gives us better chances to trace every single person,” Health Minister Lena Hallengren told a news conference.

The government has received criticism for its inability to ramp up testing and Sweden has not reached the previous target of 100,000 test per week, reaching just over a third of that in the last week. Sweden had tested 275,500 samples by end of last week, a much lower rate of testing since the pandemic began than in its Nordic neighbours. Denmark has carried out more than double Sweden’s total despite having only half the population.

Unlike much of Europe, most schools, restaurants and businesses have remained open in Sweden, with authorities relying on voluntary measures focused on good hygiene and social distancing to stem the outbreak.

More than 4,500 people have died from COVID 19 in Sweden, many times more relative to the size of the population than in neighbouring Nordic countries. ($1 = 9.3127 Swedish crowns) (Reporting by Johan Ahlander; Editing by Simon Johnson)