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HUS infections chief calls for healthy groups to be exposed to virus to spread immunity

Dr Asko Järvinen warns that restrictions should be lifted before autumn so health services do not become overwhelmed during flu season

Infectious disease specialist Asko Järvinen said older people should continue to be kept away from the virus Image: Niklas Fagerström / Yle

Restrictions designed to stem the spread of Covid-19 should begin to be lifted so that certain groups can be allowed to build immunity to the coronavirus, a senior infection specialist has said.

Asko Järvinen, chief infectious diseases physician at Helsinki and Uusimaa health district, told Yle that if the current measures remain in place the epidemic will last “six months or longer” in Finland. He therefore called for gradual lifting of the emergency legislation which has been in place since mid-March.

“We should try and allow exposure to the virus by those in the population for whom it is least likely to be dangerous, such as children, young people and adults. And try and keep older sections of the population away from the illness,” Järvinen said.

Without immunity building, Järvinen warned that the health system could be overwhelmed if restrictions continue into the autumn.

“Once respiratory infections season starts again, it’s impossible to imagine that we would be able to test everyone with symptoms. There will not be enough capacity for taking samples or testing,” he said.

On Wednesday PM Sanna Marin said that the government will reach a decision before the end of this month on whether to re-open schools.

Tuija Kumpulainen from the health and social affairs ministry told Yle that the intention to lift the restrictions could be read into yesterday’s announcement.

“The message from there it is being considered, with possible re-opening of schools being discussed.” Kumpulainen said, adding that she hoped for a phased lifting of the measures.

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