Prime Minister’s briefing: Coronavirus peak is behind us

The Prime Minister said that Finland was not following a 'herd immunity' policy and that the goal was to balance keeping vulnerable people safe with easing restrictive measures.

File picture of THL Chief Physician Taaneli Puumalainen (L) and Prime Minister Sana Marin (C) at Helsinki coronavirus press briefing, 15th May 2020 / Credit: Laura Kotila, VNK

The Chief Physician at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL Taaneli Puumalainen says he believes that Finland’s coronavirus peak is now behind us.

He made the comments on Friday morning at a briefing alongside Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) and said the number of people recovering from the virus was growing much faster than new cases.

The pair spent an hour giving their summary of the current state of the pandemic in Finland and answering questions from journalists.

Marin stated that there is no policy of ‘herd immunity’ in Finland, but rather the goal is to stop the virus – however she said the country must prepare for a new wave of infections as borders with Schengen countries are relaxed and other restrictions lifted – like students returning to school and sports or hobby activities being given the green light.

She explained that the government’s aim is to find a balance where people who are at particular risk from Covid-19 are protected, but at the same time identify some restrictive measures that can be safely eased.

Infection rates in Finland 

The PM explained why the government hadn’t set a target for the infection rate, or R0, which is the number of other people infected for every one person who has the virus. It the R0 is more than 1 the epidemic will spread, if it is less than 1 then the number of people getting infected will decline.

Some countries have set specific R0 targets to achieve but Marin said it varies in different parts of Finland where there can be cluster outbreaks of the virus, and that giving a specific number could lead to the assumption that all government actions are focused on that one goal.

“I fully understand the desire for one precise figure with which we could assess when restrictive measures will be tightened or relaxed” the PM said. “Unfortunately it’s not that simple.”

Instead, Marin says the development of the pandemic in Finland is being assessed through a number of clinical indicators, as well as looking at well-being of the population and economic indicators.

Hospital situation

Chief Physician Taaneli Puumalainen said that a third of hospital districts have had no cases of coronavirus during the last week, with most cases now in the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District, and in Western Ostrobothnia.

He says the need for hospital beds and intensive care places for coronavirus patients will decrease, and a comparison between the Nordic countries and Estonia shows that Finland’s strategy has been quite successful.

“Looking at the number of cases, it seems that Finland’s control measures and strategy have been successful compared to the comparison countries” says Puumalainen.