Coronavirus round-up: Tuesday 24th March 2020

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

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Coronavirus graphic / Credit: iStock

Here’s our evening round-up of coronavirus news from Finland:

  • Government set to announce new measures against Covid-19
  • 792 confirmed coronavirus cases in Finland
  • Finnish researchers help develop important antibody test
  • Former President Martti Ahtisaari diagnosed with the virus
  • Finnair offers one more USA repatriation flight on Friday
  • Trade union boss: “The situation is pretty drastic”

Government set to announce new measures against Covid-19

The Government is set to announce new measures to fight the spread of Covid-19. Those new restrictions are likely to be announced at a Tuesday evening press conference with Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) and other government ministers.

Earlier on Tuesday the PM had a meeting with representatives of all the Parliamentary Groups to discuss additional steps to take in the fight against the pandemic. Those might include a travel ban in the Uusimaa region where the highest number of cases have been seen. However the Prime Minister indicated there are legal hurdles to get over first before authorities can start limiting freedom of movement for residents.

792 confirmed coronavirus cases in Finland

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL says there are now 792 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Finland. Of the cases so far, 61% are men and 39% women. Only one person has died from coronavirus, an elderly patient in the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District who passed away last Friday. There are currently 73 patients who required hospitalisation and 17 are in intensive care.

The actual number of COVID-19 infections in Finland is likely to be higher than reported because not all people with mild symptoms are tested. THL has previously said there could be up to 30 times more people with the virus than have actually been confirmed through laboratory tests.

Finnish researchers help develop important antibody test

Researchers at the University of Helsinki, working in collaboration with scientists in America, have helped develop an antibody test for the novel coronavirus.

The test will be able to tell who has already had Covid-19 by detecting antibodies in blood samples that the immune system might have already made to fight against the virus.

“The other tests that are now in use they basically show the presence of the virus, but the antibody tests tell that you have seen the virus, or something similar, at some point” says Jussi Hepojoki, a Docent in Virology at the University of Helsinki, who worked on the project.

It’s an important development, as it means healthcare workers who have already built up some immunity could treat patients safely. It also means scientists can track the spread of the virus.

Read more of the interview with Jussi Hepojoki at our story here.

Former President Martti Ahtisaari confirmed with coronavirus

Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari has tested positive for coronavirus. An announcement was made on Tuesday morning from the Office of the President.

“President Martti Ahtisaari has been found to be infected by the corona virus. The infection was confirmed on Monday, March 23. President Ahtisaari is doing well given the circumstances” the statement says.

Ahtisaari, 82, 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.

Former First Lady Eeva Ahtisaari was diagnosed with coronavirus on Saturday.

Finnair offers repatriation flight on Friday

Finnair is offering Finns in America the chance to come back home during the coronavirus crisis. Although flights to the USA have been canceled for several days, the airline is putting on an extra flight from Miami to Helsinki on Friday 27th March leaving at 21:45 local time. Tickets for AY008 are on sale at the Finnair website. The Finnish government has urged any Finns who are abroad to return home at this time – unless they are living permanently overseas.

File picture of Jarkko Eloranta / Credit: SAK

Trade union boss: “The situation is pretty drastic” 

The trade unions are talking, and the government is listening. Last week’s €15 billion Government bailout package, and measures to try and safeguard Finnish jobs during this stage of the coronavirus pandemic, was in large part proposed a few days earlier by trade union organisations and employers’ federations.

But the Chairman of the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions SAKJarkko Eloranta, says more will need to be done especially for people working in non-traditional jobs who don’t have much protections and are not currently being offered much in the way of specific help from the Government.

“It really shows that we have very many things to fix there, and those people who are working self employed, entrepreneurs or gig economy are very vulnerable” he tells News Now Finland.

Read our full interview with Eloranta to learn more about the job cuts he says are inevitable, but how the coronavirus might push much-needed labour sector reforms in the right direction at our original story here.