At the wheel of his Stockholm taxi, Jotta Nikopoulou continues the deliveries of Covid-19 tests, a way for the authorities of the Swedish capital to strengthen their screening capacities, and for taxi companies to make up for the shortfall caused by the pandemic. Since the summer, the 40-year-old has been going back and forth to a station in the suburbs of Stockholm to recover one by one of the PCR tests. Mission: to redistribute them to each person showing symptoms of the virus who has requested them.
This operation is part of a program launched in June by the authorities of the Swedish capital, aimed at strengthening screening capacities in one of the countries in Europe most affected by the virus.
Two taxi companies are currently doing the job. Together, they distribute some 25,000 tests per week in and around Stockholm, according to Karolinska University Hospital, in an area that tests between 45,000 and 52,000 people each week.
Jotta Nikopoulou is one of 1,150 drivers from his company, Taxi Stockholm, who answered the call to provide transport for the tests. “At first I was a little skeptical, but we took a course on how to do it, we go through all the routines and keep the distance,” she told ..
Under a gray winter sky, Jotta waits at the wheel of her black Volvo, parked near a tent. She will soon have to get another screening kit there. Once the kit is collected, she will stop a few kilometers further, in front of a building. As recommended by the country’s health authorities, she must ensure that she respects a physical distance from her interlocutor.
About ten minutes later, she will come back to collect the sample and give it to the medical staff. If she does not wear a mask during deliveries – Sweden, a rare country in this case in the world, does not require their use -, on the other hand, she wears gloves and disinfects her hands before and after each mission. She also wipes the parts of her car that she has touched. Drivers like her make up to six deliveries a day.
Although Sweden still pursues a less strict strategy than elsewhere to fight the virus, without containment and with few coercive measures, Jotta, a taxi driver for 11 years, explains that her activity has been badly affected. “Nobody wanted to go to the office, nobody wanted to go to airports, so we had nothing” as an activity, she laments.
A collapse in the number of trips which concerns many taxi drivers around the world, among the professions most affected by the restriction measures.
The program was further designed to “minimize the risk of disease spreading during the testing process,” Karolinska Hospital assures us.
With 7,200 deaths and nearly 300,000 cases in a country of 10.3 million inhabitants, the kingdom is among the high balance sheets in Europe, much higher than those of its northern neighbors. For her part, Jotta is convinced: “I am doing something to fight against this pandemic”.