Experts: coronavirus epidemic ‘withering’ in Finland

In the last full coronavirus briefing before a summer break, experts from THL and the Ministry of Health gave their latest assessment of the epidemic.

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Blood sample with respiratory coronavirus positive

Public health exports and doctors from the Ministry of Health and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL say the coronavirus epidemic in Finland is withering away.

At a Thursday briefing, THL Chief Physician Taneli Puumalainen said that while coronavirus testing is still ongoing, the number of positive tests has been steadily declining with only around 0.5% of tests coming back positive.

Puumalainen said that tourists coming from the six Nordic and Baltic countries which Finland has opened up to, are not considered a high risk for spreading the virus. He said that testing at airport will not be done because there was no scientific evidence that it’s effective – a position THL has taken even from before the first case at the end of January.

Opening up bars, restaurants and cafes from 1st June also hasn’t had an impact on the coronavirus situation, with no spike in Covid-19 numbers detected so far.

At present, said Puumalainen, most of the new infection cases in Finland are scattered in different parts of the country.

Some healthcare services suffered during coronavirus

During the peak of the epidemic in Finland, when the country was in lockdown mode, many areas of healthcare started to suffer. These included dentistry, counseling services, and healthcare for students.

According to Liisa-Maria Voipio-Pulkki from the Ministry of Health, there is now going to be a backlog of referrals to these services, and she says it’s also important for people to get back on track with healthcare visits to monitor long-terms medical conditions.

Voipio-Pulkki says the country needs to be prepared for any potential second wave of coronavirus, however there has not been any sign so far that a surge is imminent.

THL Chief Medical Officer Taneli Puumalainen gives a briefing in Helsinki, 4th June 2020 / Credit: Laura Kotila, VNK

Coronavirus situation across the region

While Finland has been gradually easing coronavirus restrictions over the last month, with an improving epidemic situation, THL’s Taneli Puumalainen says globally coronavirus cases are still rising.

He cites particular problems in North and South America, and Africa – although it’s been more difficult to get hold of reliable, up-to-date coronavirus information from some African countries, Puumalainen notes.

The situation in the Baltic countries, Norway, Denmark and Iceland is stable for now although a cluster of coronavirus cases in Iceland highlights the difficulty of completely eradicating the virus.

The situation in Sweden, says Puumalainen, has remained bad. He pointed out regional variations with several localised epidemic outbreaks including in Norrbotten in northern Sweden, a region which borders Finland.

However he noted the declining number of Swedish patients needing intensive care treatment and the improved protection of at-risk people.