Experts have found that even people who have received two Covid vaccines are also susceptible to becoming infected by the new coronavirus variant Omicron.
Vaccine expert Mika Rämet said on Tuesday that he recommends everyone — including vaccinated individuals — to wear more effective face masks such as FFP2 or FFP3 even at events in which Covid passes are in use.
Rämet, a vaccine specialist from the University of Tampere's Vaccine Research Centre, made the comments on Yle TV1's breakfast show on Tuesday.
He said that it is clear that Omicron will become the dominant variant of the coronavirus in Finland, adding that the development calls for new ways of combating the virus.
"We're all going to be exposed"
"Omicron also infects double-vaccinated people, which means that there's a risk of further escalation of the epidemic," he explained, emphasising that a double dose of a Covid vaccine seems to protect people from serious complications from a coronavirus infection, but the risk of fully-vaccinated of being infected by the new variant is clearly higher than with earlier variants of the virus.
"Fortunately, [infection caused by] Omicron does not appear to lead to more serious disease, but as this variant takes over, the number of infections will increase," Rämet explained.
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While Rämet encouraged the use of good face masks in public situations, he conceded that virtually no one in Finland will be able to avoid coronavirus indefinitely.
"We're all going to be exposed. What we can do is prepare and get vaccinated.
"Vaccines will not stop the epidemic but can prevent serious illness," he said.
Can Finland avoid situation facing Norway?
Covid experts in Finland have said that the government should take action in order to avoid a deluge of new coronavirus cases that are expected in Norway.
On Monday, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIHP) announced that Omicron was well on its way to become the dominant coronavirus variant, saying that in a worst case scenario, there could be up to hundreds of thousands of new cases diagnosed daily in the country by January.
"Even if the Omicron variant were to cause milder disease in the individual, the widespread transmission would still lead to significantly more hospital admissions than today. In a preliminary scenario, we estimate that in three weeks there could be up to 90,000 and 300,000 cases per day and 50 to 200 admissions per day if the measures do not slow the epidemic significantly," the institute said in a statement issued on Monday.
Norway has a population of around 5.4 million people, or nearly the same as Finland's 5.5 million people.
The Strategy Director of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Pasi Pohjola, also appeared on Yle's morning show.
Pohjola said whether Finland faces a situation similar to Norway depends on people's behaviour as well as possible restrictions being implemented.
Emergency brake up in the air
Over the weekend Pohjola told Yle that nearly all of the criteria to activate the so-called "emergency brake" — effectively, a reintroduction of various epidemic-related restrictions — had already been met.
However, returning to Yle, the ministry's strategy director did not directly answer a question about when the government might engage the brake.
"That's a good question," Pohjola said, adding that it remained unclear whether recent restrictions on public gatherings had helped to improve matters.
"We haven't yet seen how the measures introduced regionally will affect the situation. It may be seen at the end of this week or the beginning of next week, at the latest," he said.
When asked what engaging the emergency brake would look like in practice, Pohjola said it could mean closing establishments regionally and "possibly banning public events, at least to some extent."
"And if necessary, regions could revoke the use of Covid passes that enable events and establishments to circumvent restrictions," he said.