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Covid case cluster emerges after students' Lapland ski trip

Those diagnosed with Covid were on a trip with dozens of students from University of Eastern Finland's Kuopio campus.

Saariselkä Ski and Sport Resort, file photo. Image: Vesa Toppari / Yle

At least 18 foreign exchange students in Kuopio have been diagnosed with coronavirus infections following a ski holiday trip in Finnish Lapland earlier this month, according to a Kuopio health official.

The infected individuals went to the Saariselkä ski resort in late February, in a group of 46 exchange students from the University of Eastern Finland's Kuopio campus.

The city of Kuopio's infectious diseases chief, Raija Savolainen, said that it was difficult to say where the infection chain began but noted there were suspicions that it may have originated in Saariselkä.

She said none of the group's members had suspected they had infections before they embarked on the trip and that about 10 individuals began showing coronavirus symptoms after they returned to Kuopio.

The group was in Saariselkä from 28 February to 4 March, on a trip organised by tourism outfit Timetravels, Savolainen said.

"They had their own accommodation and were accompanied by a tour operator guide who organised various activities," Savolainen explained.

'Not the time for group trips'

Markku Broas, Chief Physician of Infectious Diseases of the Lapland Hospital District, said that people should not be taking group vacations right now.

"Now is not the time for group trips. The risk of infection in southern Finland is so great that the risk of coronavirus spreading during trips is significant. The guidance and recommendations are that all travel, unless absolutely necessary, should be avoided right now," Broas said.

Local health authorities in Lapland reported four new coronavirus infections in the region on Thursday, two of which were diagnosed in the northern municipality of Kolari, near the Swedish border.

Broas said those two cases were found to be linked to the Kuopio group.

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