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Reports: Finland has 300 recovered Covid-19 cases

US-based Johns Hopkins University says 300 people in Finland have recovered from Covid-19, but one expert is not so sure.

Terveyspalveluyritys Mehiläisen koronaviruksen drive-in-testausasema Espoossa.
A novel coronavirus drive-through testing centre in Espoo. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva
Yle News

It has been more than one month since Finland confirmed its first novel coronavirus infection. Local health officials have been providing daily updates on the number of people testing positive for Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, as well as deaths and the number of patients in hospitals, but it is not clear how many people have recovered.

The duration of the illness caused by the virus varies, but usually patients find themselves down and out for two to three weeks. Currently, the only statistics on the number of people in Finland who have recovered from the disease have been provided by Johns Hopkins University.

Data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) also suggest that so far, 300 people have regained their health after falling ill with novel coronavirus.

As of Thursday, Finland had more than 1,500 lab-confirmed novel coronavirus infections. However the actual number of infections is estimated to be ten times that number, given that a majority of people who contract the virus will either have light symptoms or none at all.

Because of this, some say there is reason to believe that more than 300 people have recovered from Covid-19.

Monitoring not that simple

Keeping track of the number of recovered patients is not that simple, according to Veli-Jukka Anttila, medical chief of staff of the infectious diseases clinic at the Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district (HUS). Anttila said that it's first important to define what people mean when they talk about recovery.

"First, there's recovering from the virus. The virus usually goes away in two weeks, but for some patients it could last a month. And although the virus may be gone, in more severe cases, recovering from the damage the infection causes in the lungs takes a long time," Anttila explained.

In other words, patients discharged from hospital may not necessarily be fully recuperated, although there may no longer be any trace of the virus in their bodies.

Resources focusing on prevention and care

Healthcare resources in Finland are currently focusing on preventing the spread of the virus and caring for patients. According to Anttila, this means tracking recovered patients is not a top priority.

"We are not going to start hunting these people after they have been sent home. It doesn't matter when a positive test becomes a negative one," he added.

However, it will eventually be important to compile statistics to better understand the disease. For the moment though, Anttila said that he's taking the available numbers with a grain of salt. He noted that the criteria underlying the data are not always clear and they are not always the same in each country.

HUS has plans to begin testing for antibodies in patients who previously tested positive for the virus, and that information should provide an indication of the number of people who have recuperated. The tests will be administered to healthcare personnel to determine which among them have contracted the disease and become resistant to it. They can then be assigned to care for sick patients.

Final numbers still to come

There are still many questions to be answered about novel coronavirus and finding the answers will take some time. Currently the most comprehensive picture of the disease comes from China, where the pandemic began last December.

"We know of cases in China where [lung] x-rays still show changes after four weeks," Anttila noted.

He said that time will tell how well and how long it will take to recover from the ravages of the virus. Only then will we know how many have truly recovered from it, he pointed out.

There has also been positive news . Earlier this week researchers said that 0.66 percent of all patients infected with the virus in China died -- a much lower percentage than previously thought.

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