Coronavirus latest: Positive signs on virus spread, but warnings about Christmas parties

While the second wave of Covid-19 is leveling off or falling in Finland, there's a note of caution sounded about the upcoming festive season.

Coronavirus graphic / Credit: iStock

Public health officials have given their latest briefing about the Covid-19 pandemic on Thursday morning, and there’s some positive signs about the spread of the virus.

THL’s Mika Salminen says that while countries like Spain, France, UK and Italy are seeing large increases in the number of people with coronavirus, this is partly due to an increase in testing compared to earlier months. However, the virus is also spreading in parts of Europe which were impacted only mildly during spring – with the Nordic region being the exception.

Salminen notes however that the number of deaths has clearly fallen compared to what we saw in the spring around Europe.

In Finland the increase in cases has slowed, and the proportion of positive samples has also started to fall.

THL Director Mika Salminen at press briefing in Helsinki, 29th September 2020 / Credit: Jussi Toivanen, VNK

“Finns have been succeeding in keeping their distances, and taking care of hygiene” says Salminen. “This gives confidence that the break in the peak at the moment is real” he adds.

Specifically in the capital city region the number of new infections has also been falling for Helsinki, and leveling off in Vantaa and Espoo.

As infection numbers in Vaasa have been brought under control, Southern Ostrobothnia has fallen out of the ‘spreading’ phase of the pandemic and into the ‘accelerated’ phase, which officials say is an indication that localised restrictions are working.

From the Ministry of Health, Liisa-Maria Voipio-Pulkki says the R-number in Finland is a little higher than one: which means every infected person can infect on average more than one other person.

Voipio-Pulkki notes that the number of people in hospital has remained fairly stable, and the low number of people in intensive care is better than might be expected just from looking at infection rates.

However there’s still a note of caution being sounded by officials about keeping this second phase of the virus under control, especially when it comes to tracing the sources of infection and meeting family members – especially elderly relatives – during the start of the upcoming festive season.

Mika Salminen advises against large family gatherings over Christmas, saying that it’s not recommended because of the risk of infection.

“It’s sad of course when we go towards the festive season” he says, and hopes people will be imaginative in how to celebrate this year instead of meeting up in big groups.