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Covid infections, exposures linked to Rauma ice hockey championship

Thousands of fans gathered in the city to celebrate their team's success, but did not observe social distancing.

Rauman Lukon fanit juhlivat Suomen mestaruutta tiistaina.
Safety distances were forgotten as fans in Rauma celebrated local side Lukko's first ice hockey championship in 58 years. Image: Jenni Joensuu / Yle
Yle News

An outbreak of coronavirus infections and chains of exposure in Rauma have been linked to a local ice hockey team's championship win.

Lukko won the championship series earlier this month for the first time since 1963, sparking jubilant scenes of celebration on the streets of the west coast city.

At the time, police made an appeal for people not to gather in large numbers, in line with coronavirus restrictions on mass gatherings, but did not intervene even when the crowd swelled to thousands and safety distances were ignored.

Inspector Stephan Sundqvist of the Police of Southwest Finland later admitted that there were shortcomings in how the police handled the situation.

"It is understandable that the championship win is a cause for great celebration. We as police didn't want to criticise it that much," Sundqvist said. "However, the safety distances could have been observed better."

By Thursday there had been seven confirmed infections in the city and several chains of potential infection involving hundreds of others.

The city's infectious diseases doctor, Katrimari Salmela, told Yle that the majority of recent infections are linked to the ice hockey championship celebrations.

"Tracing of the infections is still in progress, but many hundred more exposures are now known," Salmela said.

One member of the team, Onni Korkka, has also tested positive but the source of his infection is currently unknown. Korkka had been involved in visits to schools in the region as part of the club's championship celebrations.

He said he wanted to publicly reveal his diagnosis in order to help trace and prevent infections.

"I want to talk about it [the diagnosis] because I have unknowingly exposed supporters during school visits. If you were with me at close range, for example in group photos, you may have been exposed to the infection," Korkka said in a Lukko press release.

According to city authorities, precautions were taken during the school visits and the risk of exposure to the virus was low but still possible, especially in connection with players posing for photos with fans.

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