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Coronavirus blog

This article brings you the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic in Finland.

People at a shopping mall, file photo. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

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15.7 18:48 Helsinki gears up to distribute second Covid boosters for 60-plus set

Preparations are underway in Helsinki to begin dispensing second booster rounds of the Covid vaccine to people over the age of 60 and others belonging to risk groups.

Lasse Lehtonen, head of diagnostic services at Helsinki University Hospital (HUS), said he hoped the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) will make a decision on the vaccination schedule soon.

Read more here.

6.7 15:51 Covid is here to stay according to HUS top doc

Covid-19 will continue to be a permanent part of life, according to Asko Järvinen, chief physician at HUS, the Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district.

"We can't get rid of it. Yes, coronavirus [which causes Covid] is here to stay. We cannot eliminate it with vaccines or restrictions," Järvinen told Yle TV1's breakfast show on Wednesday.

At the moment Finland is only offering second booster (or fourth) Covid vaccinations to people over the age of 80, as well as those in their 70s belonging to risk groups.

However, that situation is set to change, as the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) will recommend that people over the age of 60 — as well as those belonging to risk groups aged 12-59 — get the second booster, starting in September.

The health agency's recommendation is based on the seasonal nature of Covid, as it is likely that new cases will rise in the autumn. The epidemic situation will also be affected by possible new coronavirus variants, according to THL chief physician Hanna Nohynek.

She said it is a good idea to boost the protection against serious complications offered by the vaccine, which slowly fade over time.

Read more here.

28.6 18:04 Finland ends Covid entry restrictions

Finland is ending coronavirus-related border entry restrictions on Friday 1 July, the Border Guard announced on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the country's health authority THL reported on Tuesday coronavirus cases have continued to decline.

Read more here.

21.6 11:53 THL: Drop in respiratory infections during Covid pandemic

Data from last year's disease registry published by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) showed that the Covid pandemic continued to lower the spread of several infectious diseases, with fewer respiratory infections in particular being reported.

During the influenza season of 2020 to 2021, there was no epidemic, only isolated findings of the disease. In the autumn of 2021 this was also the case, although there was a slight uptick in influenza cases in December 2021.

The number of tick-borne encephalitis— or lyme disease— cases has been on the rise since 2019. Last year, a total of 151 cases were reported, compared with 91 in the previous year. In the spring of 2022, the tick-borne encephalitis vaccination programme was expanded to include the new areas of Kirkkonummi and Lohja.

Doctors and laboratories report infectious disease findings to the THL disease registry. In 2021, 579,000 notifications were made, of which almost 425,000 were related to Covid.

20.6 18:53 Finland lifts all Covid border restrictions

All Covid-related restrictions on Finland's external borders will end on 30 June, the Ministry of the Interior has stated in a press release.

This means that from the beginning of July, all passengers arriving into the country from outside the Schengen and EU areas will no longer be required to show a vaccination certificate or negative coronavirus test result.

In addition, Covid tests will no longer be carried out at border crossing points.

15.6 17:24 THL recommends 5th dose of Covid vaccine for severely immunocompromised

The National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) recommended a fifth dose of Covid vaccine for those over 12 years of age whose immune system is severely impaired. This group includes between 10,000 to 30,000 people. Their immune deficiency may be congenital or a result of illness or medication.

"For example, this includes people who are undergoing active treatment for cancer and organ transplant recipients who take medication that suppresses their immune response," Chief Physician Hanna Nohynek, the head of the THL’s vaccine programme, said on Wednesday.

Such patients will be eligible for a fifth dose of vaccine 4-6 months after their fourth dose. Local municipalities will provide details of where and when they can get vaccinated.

Having had a recent Covid infection is considered equivalent to a single dose of vaccine for immunocompromised patients, so a person who has received four doses of vaccine and still been diagnosed with Covid does not need a fifth dose at this stage.

9.6 15:25 Decrease in number of hospital patients

There are currently 392 people with Covid in hospital care according to THL. Nine patients are in intensive care and 383 are in ward care.

The situation improved from a week ago, when there were 15 people in intensive care and 454 in ward care.

The number of confirmed infections has also decreased. There have been 9,362 recorded infections in the last week, down from 13,018 a week earlier.

During the entire pandemic, Finland has reported 4,714 Covid-related deaths.

8.6 17:02 Finnish PM confirms coronavirus infection

Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) has Covid-19, she announced in a tweet on Wednesday morning.

Read more here.

6.6 18:38 Little interest in Finland's donated vaccines

Finland has donated around three million Covid vaccine doses to other countries via an international distribution system. However, finding countries willing to accept the donations has been increasingly difficult as demand for the doses has dwindled.

Read more here.

30.5 15:34 Covid wanes, healthcare staff shortages continue

Health officials in Finland say they expect new cases of Covid to drop over the summer, but experts still worry about the capacity of hospitals to manage over the next few months.

The number of coronavirus patients in hospital has fallen recently, with fewer in intensive care than at any time since last summer.

Read more here.

26.5 18:28 Hospitalisations dropping

The number of Covid patients being treated at hospitals has decreased significantly in the past week, the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) said on Thursday.

The total has fallen by more than half from the peak of 1,026 in late March. Meanwhile the number of patients in intensive care has dropped to its lowest level since early last August.

Read more here.

20.5 15:46 Minister: Second boosters in store for younger age groups

Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Aki Lindén says the government is preparing for the next possible coronavirus wave.

Lindén also suggested that the general age limits on fourth doses of the Covid vaccine will drop by the fall, but awaited expert views on the subject.

Read more here.

19.5 16:15 Covid behind mounting staff absences, sick pay backlog

Finland's benefits agency Kela has paid 91 million euros in benefits so far this year, compared to 115 million during the entire year of 2021.

Some 120,000 people in Finland have received sick pay after contracting coronavirus during the first four months of 2022. The figure is nearly as high as the total number of recipients for the entire year of 2021.

Despite the improving coronavirus situation, the agency has had to hire 50 new workers to alleviate the pressure. Currently, some 3,000 Covid allowance applications land on Kela's desks every day.

More on this story here.

19.5 16:00 Finland reports first Omicron BA.5 subvariant case

Turku's Laboratory of Clinical Microbiology recorded Finland's first case of the Omicron subvariant on Wednesday.

The variant was found in a Finnish citizen who had returned from a trip to Central America around the time of the May Day weekend, according to a hospital press release.

Read more here.

12.5 13:07 THL: Nearly 17,000 new cases in past week

Finland recorded 16,973 new lab-confirmed coronavirus infections over the past week, the Institute for Health and Welfare reported on Thursday.

The agency currently publishes information about new Covid cases on a weekly basis.

12.5 13:02 HUS boss: Spike of Covid deaths going unnoticed

This year's spike in Covid-19 deaths is not being adequately publicized, Lasse Lehtonen, the head of diagnostic services at Helsinki University Hospital (HUS), told Yle on Thursday.

An inaccurate understanding of the country's pandemic situation could lead to fewer people seeking out third vaccine doses — also referred to as boosters, Lehtonen said, noting that if Covid deaths continue at their current pace it would be 'catastrophic'.

Read more here.

5.5 15:50 Finland's death toll breaches 4,000

Finland surpassed 4,000 Covid deaths as of Thursday, the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported.

Finland had 3,000 total Covid deaths a little over a month ago, after taking over two years to reach that milestone.

On the whole though, coronavirus infections appear to be declining across Finland.

The past five weekly measurements of Covid RNA in wastewater have diminished with each recording. Covid RNA is on average present in wastewater three weeks after infection, which THL has pointed to as a benchmark that the virus is on the retreat.

4.5 14:23 Finland's hospitalisations slightly down

The number of people with Covid receiving hospital treatment has declined, the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported.

As of Wednesday, there were 774 patients with Covid in hospitals around the country, which was 28 fewer than on Monday, the last time such figures were published.

Out of those patients, there were 21 receiving intensive care treatment, reflecting a decline of four since Monday.

THL publishes Covid-related hospitalisation figures on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, while the institute reports Covid-positive testing numbers on Thursdays.

2.5 15:24 Finland to decide on fourth doses of vaccine

Finland is to make a decision this week on who should have access to a fourth dose of Covid vaccine. Up to now second booster shots have been restricted to those living in care homes, those aged over 80, and the severely immuno-compromised. Read our story here.

2.5 12:10 THL: Slight uptick in hospitalisations over the weekend

There was an increase in the number of people with Covid hospitalised over the weekend, according to the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

As of Monday there were 802 patients with Covid in Finnish hospitals, which was an increase of 43 people since Friday, THL said. Of the total amount of patients, 25 were in intensive care units.

THL publishes data on Covid-related hospitalisation figures on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Read previous updates here.