Now that Omicron is hitting us, Sweden seems like a relatively safe place to be. Reading the Swedish Covid-headlines, there are 100 cases reported in Norway, 48 in Denmark, and a separate story about the infection spreading in the Finnish Parliament. With all this going on, Sweden has reported a total of no more than 7 cases of Omicron in the country.
Total number of cases of virus variants of particular importance in 2021 The table shows the total number of cases of each virus variant that have been confirmed by whole genome sequencing, divided by specified country of infection (Sweden, abroad, information is missing) up to and including Wednesday this week. Table 1. Number of detected cases of each virus variant of special importance in total and divided by information on country of infection in the case report (Sweden, abroad, information missing), from week 1 2021 onwards. Updated 2021-12-03. (FoHM)
The situation is much like when the countries were bracing for another mutation, ‘The British Variant,’ a year ago. Hardly any cases of the British variant were confirmed in Sweden. Yet the virus was spilling over the border from Sweden to Finland. ( How the British Variant Became the Swedish Virus)
Today, Omicron is doing the same. The number of confirmed cases in Sweden is 7. The number of confirmed cases in Finland is 7. All 7 Finnish cases can be traced back to Sweden. Either the Finns who have been to Sweden have been extremely unlucky, and been the first people ever to have been exposed to Omicron in Sweden. Or, as was the case with the British variant, the Swedes just don’t know they have it..
Early on in the Pandemic, March 13, 2020, FoHM declared “The New Strategy: If you are not in hospital or a part of a risk group, you will not be tested for corona in the future.” (Did Sweden Lose Track of the Covid Infections Already? )
The official reversal of that policy has done little to improve the situation. Even with the new policy, Sweden does not have the experienced contact tracers who have been a part of the strategy from the beginning. Even though the number of tests has increased, the testing is unstructured, unorganized, and without a clear purpose – who is being tested and why — is it for tallying and statistics, or because someone for whatever reason felt like being tested? A common reason to be tested is that a negative result is a permission to go to a party.
Exhaustive testing and tracing must have seemed pointless in a society where the infection had been allowed to spread. A country where,for a year and a half now, the promised herd immunity has always been just around the corner. Now that they would be needed, the plan, the routines, the infrastructure, and the experienced staff are missing.
Some health care regions have set up pick-up points for test kits. The idea is that anyone who wishes to do so, can pick up a test and get it analyzed. People go to these points to pick up Covid souvenirs – a region reported that they are running out of the kits, while 60% of the kits are never returned.
Despite the wasting of health care resources and testing capacity for more or less pointless testing, Sweden is still lagging even in the number of tests. That leaves a very small number of tests that are used for test-and-trace purposes.
In a study published September 2021, it was found that:
|A key public health response to the pandemic is testing and contact tracing of confirmed cases […]Of all countries, Nordic and large western European countries, Sweden has had a much lower testing rate at about one hundredth of the rate of any of its Nordic neighbours and about one tenth of large Western European countries. Since July 2020, the testing rate increased substantially in Sweden, but it still remains a small fraction of any country in our study.|
Sweden has been hoping for the best, but never prepared for the worst.