The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the societies and health care systems globally, and resulted in many social and physical distancing restrictions to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2. These restrictions have also likely affected the frequency of intimate contacts and the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Compared to most other countries, Sweden especially in Spring-Autumn 2020 pursued mainly milder voluntary, that is, not mandatory enforced by laws, recommended restrictions and the impacts of these on society and spread of STIs remain largely unknown. We describe the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the national and regional incidence, epidemiology and diagnostic testing of chlamydia and gonorrhoea in Sweden in 2020. Compared to 2019, we found a significant decrease in incidence of chlamydia (-4.5%) and gonorrhoea (-17.5%), and in diagnostic testing (-10.5% for chlamydia, -9.4% for gonorrhoea) in 2020. However, the decrease in chlamydia incidence, which has mainly been decreasing in the last 10 years, was not significant when compared with the average incidence in 2017-2019. The largest decrease in national incidence of both infections was observed among young and heterosexual patients, however, some Swedish regions showed an increased incidence, particularly of chlamydia. Increased "internet-based self-sampling" testing approach partly compensated for a decreased attendance at STI clinics. Studies, including sexual behaviour, prevention, reasons for attending STI health care, STIs in different anatomical sites and management of STIs, are required to elucidate the impact of COVID-19-associated social and physical distancing restrictions on sexual activity and the incidence and epidemiology of chlamydia and gonorrhoea in Sweden.
Keywords: Chlamydia trachomatis; Neisseria gonorrhoeae; COVID-19; Sweden; sexually transmitted infections; social and physical distancing.
© 2021 The Authors. APMIS published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Scandinavian Societies for Medical Microbiology and Pathology.