Coronavirus latest: Sunday 15th March 2020

Here's our daily round-up of all the latest Covid-19 coronavirus news from Finland.

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File picture of nurse taking blood / Credit: iStock

Here’s the latest news you need to know about coronavirus in Finland:

  • 30 new Covid-19 cases / 241 diagnosed cases in total
  • Why numbers don’t tell the whole picture
  • Helsinki to keep schools open for the time being
  • Finnair cancels yet more flights
  • Huittinen becomes first municipality to close all schools
  • Meet the medical detectives tackling misinformation

30 new cases confirmed by THL

The Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare THL reports 30 new Covid-19 tests on Sunday. It brings the total number of confirmed cases in Finland to 241.

Here’s where the new cases can be found:

  • 22 new cases in Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District
  • 2 new cases in West Ostrobothnia Hospital District
  • 1 new case in the Hospital District of Southwest Finland
  • 1 new case in Central Ostrobothnia Hospital District
  • 1 new case in Pirkanmaa Hospital District
  • 1 new case in Kanta-Häme Hospital District
  • 1 new case in Southern Ostrobothnia Hospital District

Why numbers don’t tell the whole picture

While there have been 241 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Finland it’s not the whole picture. That’s because different hospital districts have different testing criteria. For example in the country’s biggest hospital district HUS in the capital city region, they’ve changed their testing criteria and limiting it to healthcare workers, or people who are already in an at-risk group: people over 70, or with other serious health problems already.

And the general advice from THL is to stay at home even if you’ve got mild flu-like symptoms which might indeed be coronavirus. So those people won’t get tested and their statistics won’t get added to the official figures.

Helsinki to keep schools open for now

Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori held a Sunday evening press conference where he announced that schools in the capital city will remain open for the time being.

That includes city schools, colleges, kindergartens, family daycare and playgrounds which will all continue to operate normally.

“According to experts, the closure of operations would have little effect in slowing down the epidemic at this stage” the city says in a press release.

All educational events, like parents’ evenings, with more than 100 people are being canceled; and any students coming back to Finland from abroad (excluding the Nordic countries and Estonia) self-isolate for a week from their date of return.

Mayor Vapaavuori says closing schools would mean parents have to stay home to look after them and that puts a strain on the city’s healthcare service and many other businesses. However, increased options for distance learning for grades 7 to 9 are being encouraged; and lunch breaks are being staggered to avoid large gatherings.

Teachers will re-focus efforts to teach students about good hand hygiene as well.

Finnair has to cancel more flights 

Finnair is canceling yet more flights because of a sharp down-turn in passenger numbers as well as visa regimes and closed borders during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The latest flights to be impacted are:

  • Vilnius from 16.3
  • Hong Kong from 16.3
  • Madrid from 16.3
  • Estonia from 17.3
  • Riga from 17.3
  • Barcelona – last flight to Helsinki on 17.3

Huittinen municipality closes all schools

A small municipality in western Finland has become the first in Finland to close down its schools. There’s only around 10,000 people living there, but in a statement the city says all primary schools and Lauttakylä High School will switch to distance learning from Monday morning.

“The situation in the city is safe from coronavirus, but we want to prevent possible chains of infection” the city says.

Parents were informed over the weekend of the closures and students had in any case been told to take their study materials home with them and prepare for distance learning.

Meet the medical detectives tackling misinformation

A group of students from Turku is finding an antidote to quack science, dubious medical claims and fad cures through good old fashioned detective work.

Can flu be eased with zinc tablets? Is there a connection between eating meat and cancer? Can someone develop autism if they’ve been exposed to aluminium? These are just a few of the questions that Vastalääke has provided answers to so far.

Their research couldn’t come at a better time when it seems as if pseudo-science is reaching a peak: from Gwynneth Paltrow’s Netflix show on alternative cures and therapies throwing up red flags for doctors; to an Iranian cleric suggesting that patients rub pansy oil on their anus at night to cure them of coronavirus.

“I wouldn’t encourage anyone to scroll on Facebook for too long but you might as well do some good while you’re on there” says Tatu Han one of the Vastalääke team, and a full time student.

“I feel like it is the responsibility of healthcare professionals, especially in Finland where our education is paid by society, to not limit the spread of knowledge to that short encounter with a patient. So if you can share your knowledge through other means, I feel like you should” he explains.

Read more about the group and their award-winning work at our original story here.