FACT CHECK: Did Sweden Stop Using PCR Tests To Diagnose COVID-19?

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

An image shared on Instagram claims Sweden is no longer using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19.


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A post shared by Holistic Health (@holyholistic)

Verdict: False

Sweden is still using PCR tests for COVID-19. The claim appears to stem from a misunderstanding of a page on Sweden’s public health agency website.

Fact Check: 

PCR tests are a form of diagnostic test for COVID-19, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The Cleveland Clinic describes PCR tests as the “most accurate and reliable test for diagnosing COVID-19.”

An image on Instagram claims Sweden has stopped using PCR tests. Additional text inside the post reads, “The PCR technology used in tests to detect viruses cannot distinguish between viruses capable of infecting cells and viruses that have been neutralized by the immune system and therefore these tests cannot be used to determine whether someone is contagious or not.”

While the image does contain some translated text that appears on the Public Health Agency of Sweden’s website, the agency has not suspended the use of PCR tests. The agency still uses PCR tests to determine if someone is infected with COVID-19, according to its website, and recommends people “Book a PCR test if you feel ill and believe that you have COVID-19.”

A search for news reports about Sweden stopping the use of PCR diagnostic tests turned up no results, except for other fact-checking websites debunking the claim. (RELATED: Does The Swab For A COVID-19 Test Take A Sample From The Blood-Brain Barrier?)

The claim appears to stem from confusion about a section of the Public Health Agency of Sweden’s website that, according to a translation, gives guidance on “criteria for assessment of freedom from infection in covid-19.” The website explains there that the RNA from the virus can be detected by the PCR test for weeks but doesn’t always indicate if a person carrying the virus is still contagious. The agency recommends waiting seven days after the onset of symptoms, or 14 days after the onset of more pronounced symptoms, before considering an infected person no longer contagious.

Check Your Fact reached out to the Public Health Agency of Sweden for comment and will update the article if a response is provided. Anna Wetterqvist, a spokesperson for the agency, previously told The Associated Press that Sweden still uses PCR tests.

“We can confirm that Sweden has not suspended the use of PCR tests,” Wetterqvist said. She further noted 350,000 PCR tests were conducted weekly in April and May, and 9.7 million tests have been conducted in Sweden overall, according to The Associated Press.

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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