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Wednesday's papers: Unusual coronavirus symptoms, better masks, rural broadband

Should Finland follow Germany's lead on masks? Plus, what's the difference between older and newer coronavirus variants?

Nainen kasvomaskiin suojautuneena bussipysäkillä.
HS asks whether FFP2 respirators like the one pictures should become mandatory in Finland's public spaces Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle
Yle News

With the government expected to update its advice on mask wearing later this week, experts from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH) are suggesting that so-called FFP class protection may not be necessary in all cases, reports Helsingin Sanomat.

In recent days a number of European countries including Germany have mandated the use of FFP2 respirators in public places. FFP2-standard respirators are close-fitting, which reduces the risk of particles escaping from the sides. Under Germany's new rules, the use of fabric masks will no longer be allowed in public places.

According to HS, the FIOH was asked by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health to submit a report on whether FFP-class equipment should be used more widely in Finland.

The conclusion? "A surgical mask is enough for everyday use, and FFP2-level respirators do not need to be used more widely in Finland," says Antti Koivula, FIOH's director general.

FIOH's report also stated that there would not be sufficient supplies of FFP2 equipment to allow everyone in Finland to use them, if required.

Current guidelines on mask wearing from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) recommend the use of face masks in indoor spaces such as workplaces and schools, in other indoor public places such as shops, and when using public transport.

How do you spot the British coronavirus variant?

Some common symptoms associated with coronavirus aren't so common in the newer British variant of the virus, says daily tabloid Ilta-Sanomat, and that could be why it appears to spread much more easily.

The paper cites a study in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), which found that losing a sense of taste and smell - commonly reported symptoms of Covid-19 - was "significantly less common" in the British variant of the virus.

According to IS, the British variant has symptoms more in line with those of seasonal flu viruses, which could be helping to spread it more rapidly.

IS quotes British virologist Richard Tedder, who told the BMJ, "if there is an increased amount of coughing and perhaps sneezing associated with a particular variant virus, these two activities can markedly increase the amount of virus which is shed into the environment, thereby making it 'more infectious'."

Helsinki University's Professor Olli Vapalahti agrees, telling Ilta-Sanomat, "The British and South African variants have been detected largely in the nasopharynx. From there the virus is more easily spread, which, epidemiologically-speaking, makes it more 'contagious'."

Rural broadband falls behind

The newspaper of rural Finland, Maaseudun Tulevaisuus, reports that not all Finnish municipalities have equal access to a high-speed internet connection.

While 82 percent of homes in Helsinki have a wired broadband connection of 100 megabits per second or more, just 26 percent of households in neighbouring Sipoo can say the same.

MT notes that in 33 of Finland's 309 municipalities, a wired 100Mbps connection is available to less than 10 percent of households. Most of these municipalities are in rural areas.

The paper claims that Finland has one of the EU's lowest penetration rates of high-speed broadband in rural areas, although there are some exceptions. Among those at the top of the league table is the Lapland municipality of Sodankylä, where 100 percent of households can access a 100Mbps internet connection.

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