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Sweden keeps schools open, restricts COVID-19 testing to sick and elderly

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-03-13 11:22

Travelers with protective masks stand with their luggage at Arlanda International Airport following the coronavirus concern and cancelled flights in Stockholm, Sweden, March 12, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

STOCKHOLM - While Norway and Denmark announced school closures on Thursday to stem the spread of coronavirus, Sweden said it would keep schools open, a decision made in the same day that testing in Stockholm was restricted to the sick and elderly.

Education Minister Anna Ekstrom said the government will not order schools to shut down but that it will bring in new rules that give heads of schools the right to determine, on their own, how to deal with the coronavirus epidemic, Swedish Television reported on Thursday evening.

School heads can now for instance decide to extend the school year, rearrange timetables, schedule classes on weekends or introduce remote teaching, Ekstrom said.

Ekstrom added that closing schools would mean many parents with jobs that are vital to society, like healthcare personnel, would have to stay home and take care of their children instead of going to work and that would delay efforts to stem the spread of the virus.

Also on Thursday, the Stockholm regional board announced new routines for testing suspected cases of COVID-19. From now on, testing will be limited to patients who are in need of hospital or elderly care and who are showing symptoms of the novel coronavirus. The aim is to protect patients who are already frail due to old age or chronic illnesses, the regional board said.

"If you are experiencing coronavirus-like symptoms, you will not be tested even if you have been in the areas previously affected by contagion or if you have been in close contact with someone who you know has contracted COVID-19," the Stockholm regional board said in a statement.

The move means Sweden is no longer keeping count of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the capital, which so far has recorded a vast majority of the country's cases.

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