Jan Vapaavuori: ‘We’re working to fix covid testing problems’

The Mayor of Helsinki says that along with his counterparts in Vantaa and Espoo he's been putting pressure on the government to come out with a clear national policy on wearing face masks.

File picture of Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori (NCP) at City Hall, 31st March 2020 / Credit: News Now Finland

The Mayor of Helsinki says his administration is working with Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District HUS to fix some major problems with coronavirus testing in the capital.

This week has seen a steady stream of media stories highlighting the several-days wait to book Covid-19 test appointments in the public health system, and then another delay with getting results.

Mayor Jan Vapaavuori (NCP) says the problems are with a shortage of qualified staff, and an unexpected demand for testing.

“The testing capacity is not good enough just now. I think it was a surprise how big the demand for tests suddenly became. The responsibility for the tests is not on the city but on HUS, but of course as the biggest member of HUS and a big partner of HUS we are helping them and supporting them in all ways we can help them” he tells News Now Finland.

In practical terms that means that while there’s sufficient physical locations for patients to go and get tested, there’s not enough enough staff to administer the tests.

“That is one of the challenges and the other one is the analyzing capacity” says Vapaavuori.

File picture of elderly person wearing face mask / Credit: iStock

Cities gearing up for face mask recommendations

The mayor confirmed that public health officials are gearing up for likely nationwide recommendations on using face masks in public places – which could come on Thursday.

Vapaavuori recently joined with the mayors of Espoo and Vantaa; as well as HUS and capital region public transport operator HSL in urging the government to make a decision on face masks.

“I know that there are several practical issues which you need to solve together with a possible recommendation. And taking into account that during the last days we have had a quite good dialogue not only between the major cities in the metropolitan area, but also with the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs” says Vapaavuori, who thinks a decision should have been made before now.

“I’m convinced the delay is at least partially due to the fact we are trying to prepare ourselves for a couple of big practical issues you need to solve together with a recommendation.”

The mayor says one of those issues is about the role of government or local authorities to provide masks for people with low incomes.

Vapaavuori says unlike the City of Turku, Helsinki has not wanted to get out ahead of a government recommendation on face masks, and that he’s been waiting on a nationwide decision, while applying pressure.

“I think we have, also with the cities of Espoo and Vantaa, put pressure on the national government to take action here.”