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Health

Stockholm pauses home COVID-19 testing as system overwhelmed

FILE PHOTO: People walk past market stalls at Hotorget square, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in central Stockholm, Sweden October 30, 2020. TT News Agency/Amir Nabizadeh via REUTERS

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Stockholm has paused home COVID-19 testing for four days after surging demand left 16,000 people waiting for tests for active infections in Sweden’s biggest city, overwhelming the system, regional authorities said on Sunday.

The system whereby residents have been able to apply online for delivery and pickup of tests which they themselves administer, has been popular and in place since the Nordic country ramped up testing during the summer.

“The number of people ordering home tests has increased so sharply that a queue has formed that now needs to be worked off,” the region of Stockholm said in a statement explaining its decision.

A rise in new cases in Sweden after a summer lull has gained momentum with fresh daily records in recent weeks though the resurgence of the disease has come later and so far not hit the kind of peaks recorded in countries such as Belgium.

Sweden, whose strategy of eschewing lockdowns and widespread use of face masks has gained international attention, has seen several regions, including Stockholm, tighten social distancing recommendations over the past week due to surging infections.

Testing of patients and staff in the health care system and at nursing homes would not be affected by the pause on home testing, the Stockholm region said.

While the renewed spread has begun translating into more hospitalisations, these still remain well off the peaks hit during a deadly spring when the country recorded the brunt of its nearly 6,000 COVID-19 deaths.

Reporting by Johan Ahlander, editing by Niklas Pollard

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