Here’s our evening round-up of the latest coronavirus news from Finland:
- Latest Covid-19 figures
- Police investigation into mask scandal “negligence”
- Concerns over numbers of Somalis with coronavirus
- Uusimaa border decision due on Wednesday
- New shipment of masks arriving from China
- President Ahtisaari and his wife test coronavirus-free
Latest coronavirus numbers
The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare says there have been 3,161 confirmed cases of coronavirus – up 97 from the day before. There have also been 64 deaths.
Although the worst-hit region in terms of actual cases and number of fatalities is the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District, across the country there are currently 232 coronavirus patients in hospital – 75 of them in intensive care.
Testing has increased recently with 4,000 tests being carried out every day at public healthcare facilities. However, testing is still done on a priority bases with those who show sever symptoms of coronavirus; staff and patients in nursing homes; and those over 70 who might also have an underlying medical condition.
Police investigation into mask scandal “negligence”
The National Emergency Supplies Agency NESA has called for a police investigation into a multi-million deal to buy face masks from China, using middlemen, without due diligence.
Minister of Employment Tuula Haatainen (SDP) told Parliament on Tuesday afternoon that problems with an order of medical-grade masks which arrived last week were due to “negligence” at NESA.
At a Tuesday evening press conference NESA bosses say they’re voiding part of the deal and trying to get some of their millions back from the two people who signed contracts to deliver the medical equipment: a reality TV celebrity who runs a plastic surgery business in Estonia, and a businessman with a payday loan company.
The head of NESA Tomi Lounema resigned on Friday after several days of bad press. Previously, the reason for Lounema’s departure had been put down to a lack of trust in him to do the job running NESA, but Haatainen for the first time attributed it to negligence.
Concerns over numbers of Somalis with coronavirus
Healthcare officials in the Finnish capital have expressed their concerns about the rise in numbers of Somali-speaking residents testing positive for coronavirus.
So far nearly 200 cases have been confirmed, which the City of Helsinki says translates to 1.8% of the Somali community in the capital, compared to 0.2% average among all of Helsinki’s residents.
“I find the recent spread of infection among minority-language communities very worrying” says Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori (NCP) in a statement.
Meanwhile Left Alliance Councillor Suldaan Said Ahmed, who is himself recovering at home after testing positive for coronavirus, says there are many reasons why immigrant communities are vulnerable to the disease, like multi-generational living and more crowded housing which doesn’t allow for proper self-isolation.
“There is also a class issue involved, because many Somali immigrants work in low paid jobs like cleaners and bus drivers, so they don’t have the option to work remotely” he says. Read more here.
Uusimaa border decision due on Wednesday
A decision on whether to lift restrictions on the Uusimaa border in Southern Finland is due on Wednesday. According to local media the indications are that Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) will let the travel restrictions expire on 19th April as originally planned.
The measures were put in place to limit the spread of coronavirus from the capital, where there were significantly more confirmed cases at the time, to other parts of the country. However it’s thought that strategy will not be so effective any more as Covid-19 cases have been increasing in other parts of the country now too.
Meanwhile police say there was an increase in traffic at the Uusimaa border over the Easter weekend, with 13,743 vehicles trying to get in or out of the region on Monday alone. Police turned by 196 vehicles and fined 22 people for violating the Emergency Act.
New shipments of masks arriving from China
New shipments of protective masks from China are expected in Finland on Tuesday, and in the following days after that.
A cargo flight on Tuesday is bringing surgical masks manufactured by a Chinese company in accordance with Chinese hospital protection standards, ordered by the National Emergency Supply Agency NESA.
Another two flights are supposed to arrive in the coming days bringing protective gloves and FFP2 respirators manufactured by Finnish firm Lifa Air at their China facility. Lifa Air will switch production to Finland in the next few weeks, once the right equipment is brought in.
Any new protective equipment will be tested by the Technical Research Centre VTT to ensure it meets European standards, there is some deviation allowed “in exceptional circumstances” in accordance with new Ministry of Social Affairs and Health guidelines issued at the end of March.
President Ahtisaari and his wife test coronavirus-free
Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari and his wife Eeva have both tested negative for Covid-19 after previously testing positive with the virus.
A statement issued by the Office of the President of the Republic on Tuesday says the couple continue to recover from their illness. Ahtisaari, age 82, was confirmed with coronavirus on 23rd March, with his wife falling sick with the virus a few days before.
Martti Ahtisaari served as President of Finland from 1994 to 2000, and was active for much of his working life in the area of conflict resolution and peace negotiations, for which he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2008. The couple lives in Helsinki.