Coronavirus latest: Covid restrictions extended till mid-February; 8,300+ cases on Wednesday; more fully-vaccinated people needing hospital treatment in HUS

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

Privately-run Covid testing site with drive-in service at Helsinki Airport. Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva

Check Yle's dashboard for a range of regional, national and international Covid data.

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19.1 11:49 More than 8,300 new cases on Wednesday

The Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported on Wednesday that 8,382 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases were diagnosed in Finland over the past day.

Nearly 3,000 of the day's cases were reported in the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District, while in the Pirkanmaa region there were more than 1,000.

As of Wednesday there were 718 people being treated for Covid in hospitals around the country, 64 of whom were in intensive care.

THL also reported an additional Covid-related fatality on Wednesday, bringing the country's epidemic death toll to 1,762.

18.1 19:12 Covid restrictions extended till mid-February

Finland will extend current coronavirus regulations till mid-February, following which restrictions will be phased out, Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced at a press conference on Tuesday.

The primary exception is restrictions on indoor recreational activities for children and young adults, which the government wants to end immediately. Additionally, authorities will stop imposing border controls within the country and higher education institutions are recommended to switch to a hybrid teaching strategy from February onwards.

Marin said that the government will continue updating its coronavirus strategy for the next two weeks to determine how and when restrictions on public events and restaurants can be lifted. More on this story here.

18.1 17:30 HUS: Increase in double vaccinated Covid patients

Weekly estimates from the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS) indicate a significant rise in the number of vaccinated patients requiring intensive care for coronavirus. The number of ICU patients who had been vaccinated was exceptionally high last week compared to the previous weeks and months.

According to Eeva Ruotsalainen, the deputy chief physician for infectious diseases at HUS, while the double vaccinated patients in intensive care were of working age, most of them have an underlying medical condition such as diabetes. More here.

18.1 15:19 Nearly 2,200 infections among conscripted soldiers

Some 2,186 conscripted soldiers in Finnish military units have been infected with coronavirus since the start of the year. The conscript union has expressed concern about the soldiers' morale and mental health, as some have been stuck on their military base for six weeks or more.

Read the full story here.

18.1 11:49 THL: 5,900+ cases on Tuesday

Public health authority THL has reported 5,977 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases on Tuesday, bringing Finland's overall number of cases to just under 400,000.

A further eight deaths linked to the virus have also been registered in Finland over the past 24 hours. Finland's overall toll now stands at 1,761.

18.1 10:55 Ministers discuss Covid situation on Tuesday

Finland's government ministers are meeting at the House of the Estates in Helsinki on Tuesday to discuss the worsening coronavirus situation in the country.

Yle understands that the agenda will include discussions on the role of testing and tracing infections in the future as well as extending the use of the Covid pass, but that there are no plans to introduce new or tighten current restrictions.

17.1 18:47 Covid-era birthrate growth in Helsinki, Uusimaa continues

Following nearly a decade of a steady decline in births, in 2021 there were 1,516 more babies born in the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS) compared to the previous year, according to the district.

The region's birth rate began to tick upwards as the Covid pandemic began to unfold in the spring of 2020 and the baby trend seems to be continuing, at least for the time being.

Read more here.

17.1 18:27 Helsinki opens up appointment-free booster jabs

Starting on Wednesday, 19 January people in Helsinki over the age of 18 will be able to seek out third Covid booster jabs without making an appointment at the vaccine centres set up in Jätkäsaari and the Messukeskus Expo and Convention Centre.

Those over the age of 12 will continue to be able to receive their first and second vaccinations without making a special appointment at all of the city's vaccination centres.

The city's health centre director, Timo Lukkainen, said people who have already booked vaccination appointments can log into the city's vaccination planning platform koronarokotusaika.fi (siirryt toiseen palveluun) to see if an earlier appointment might be available.

Healthcare workers in Helsinki doled out a record-breaking 57,000 doses of Covid vaccines last week, according to the city.

Amid skyrocketing new cases of the viral disease, Helsinki started speeding up Covid vaccinations over the Christmas holiday and later began offering jabs on weekday evenings and on Saturdays.

During the first week of the year, the city administered more than 45,000 vaccinations, which was more than twice the number given out the week before, when fewer than 19,000 jabs were doled out.

17.1 17:43 Turku researchers probe possible Covid, mental illness links

A team of researchers from Finland and abroad want to find out whether the virus that causes Covid has direct or indirect impacts on the human brain. Can, for example, the virus lead to changes in a person's blood that end up affecting the central nervous system — or vice versa?

Read more here.

17.1 13:23 Rapid Covid breath test developed in Finland

A Tampere-based medical devices company has received an EU-wide CE certificate for the distribution of a rapid Covid-19 breath test.

"We are driven to provide a disruptive Covid screening solution that helps individuals, families, and communities return to normal at work, school, and play," CEO Pekka Rissanen of Deep Sensing Algorithms, which developed the product, wrote in a company press release.

Read more on this story here.

17.1 12:20 Finland reports 22,000+ new cases

Public health authority THL on Monday said it had recorded 22,217 new coronavirus infections in Finland over the weekend. Around half of the cases were in the Helsinki metropolitan area.

Finland also recoded 29 new Covid-related fatalities, bringing the total death toll since the beginning of the pandemic to 1 ,753.

Hospitals were as of Monday treating 701 Covid patients, 63 of whom are in intensive care.

17.1 9:21 Papers: Finland considers Pfizer's Omicron vaccine

With nearly 40 percent of over-12s boosted with third doses, Finland is eyeing Pfizer's vaccine targeting the Omicron variant.

Kirsi Varhila, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, told Ilta-Sanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun) that Finland could administer the new vaccine this spring.

Read more on this story, and the rest of our Monday morning paper review, here.

16.1 14:44 Highest vaccination rate in E. Finland, lowest in Uusimaa

On Sunday the THL health institute said that nearly 34 percent of Finland's population have received a third, booster shot of Covid vaccine. Meanwhile 73 percent have been given a second dose, while 76 percent of the whole population have had at least one dose.

The highest vaccination rate is in the eastern regions of South Karelia and East Savo, where more than 79 percent of all residents have received two doses. The lowest rate is in Helsinki and the surrounding Uusimaa region, where only about 68 percent have done so.

16.1 14:41 PM: Covid pass use may be rejigged

The use of the Covid pass was restricted in late December, but according to Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP), its use could be expanded once again as part of new coronavirus measures to be announced this coming week, reports Finnish commercial broadcaster MTV.

The function of the pass is likely to change though, Marin told MTV on Saturday evening.

On Sunday, Mika Salminen, director of health security at the national health institute THL, expressed scepticism about continued use of the Covid pass.

Our full story here.

15.1 15:58 One-third of population boosted

As of Saturday one-third of the total population have received third or booster doses of coronavirus vaccine, according to the health institute THL. That is nearly 38 percent of those aged 12 and over, i.e., those who are eligible for shots.

Meanwhile 73 percent of the total population have received two jabs, which is 83 percent of those aged 12 and over.

Seventy-six percent of the total population have gotten at least one dose, or just over 86 percent of 12-and-overs.

14.1 17:54 Avi: No restrictions on children's activities

Despite government recommendations, the Regional State Administrative Agency (Avi) of Southern Finland has decided not to impose coronavirus-related restrictions on supervised hobbies and sports activities for children and youth.

In practice, that means people born in or after 2003 in southern Finland will continue to be able to take part in supervised activities, while taking Covid precautions into account at all times.

Read more here.

14.1 15:48 Former President Ahtisaari recovers from second Covid bout

Former President Martti Ahtisaari has recovered from Covid-19.

The 84-year-old was diagnosed with the disease for a second time in December after recovering from the illness last spring.

Ahtisaari served as Finland's tenth president for one term in the 1990s and is also a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, United Nations diplomat and noted international peace mediator.

14.1 14:29 THL: 24 deaths and 9,500 cases on Friday

An additional 24 people in Finland have died from Covid-19, according to the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), bringing the country's pandemic death toll to 1,724.

Meanwhile, there were 9,582 new cases of the disease confirmed over the past day on Friday, with around 6,000 of the cases diagnosed in the Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital districts.

As of Friday there were just over 670 patients receiving hospital treatment for Covid in Finland, 61 of them in intensive care wards.

14.1 9:53 Paper: Finland spends less on healthcare than many European countries

Yle News' newspaper review on Friday found a story from Helsingin Sanomat which examined why Finland seems to have run out of healthcare capacity at an earlier stage of the Covid epidemic than other European countries.

The paper said that healthcare leaders started sounding the alarm early in the autumn, and includes a graph showing that even now, hospital load from Covid patients is around a third of that in the UK and Italy.

The problem, according to HS, is that Finland runs its healthcare system very lean indeed.

Read more about this and other stories in the paper review.

13.1 18:47 Covid quarantine reduced to five days

Public health authority THL announced on Thursday that quarantine after a Covid diagnosis can be reduced to five days.

The duration of quarantine and isolation as prescribed by an infectious disease physician following a Covid diagnosis has been ten days, but health officials say that is no longer necessary.

Read more here.

13.1 12:27 THL: 14,000+ cases on Thursday, 12 further deaths

Finnish health authorities have reported 14,277 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday. The latest figures brings the number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic to more than 361,500.

Public health authority THL has also registered 12 further deaths linked to the virus over the past 24 hours. Finland's overall toll from the pandemic has now risen to 1,700.

13.1 10:40 Finland records first Covid-related death of a child

A primary school student has died in the Ostrobothian city of Laihia, after being diagnosed with Covid. The young patient died following hospitalisation last weekend. This is the first case of its kind in Finland.

It is still unclear whether the young student's death was directly caused by the virus however, Education Director Markku Laukkonen confirmed that the child belonged to a risk group.

Read more here.

13.1 9:22 HUS doc: 0.5-1 percent of positive home tests false

With the omicron variant spreading fast and roughly 30 percent of lab-confirmed tests now positive, a positive lateral flow test result is likely reliable. There are however cases where positive home test results have been false, according to daily paper Helsingin-Sanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun).

The phenomenon is not common. Only half and one percent of store-sold lateral flow tests are false positives, according to Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS) Director Lasse Lehtonen.

It is highly recommended that positive home tests are followed up by a PCR test to confirm and record possible infections.

Read more on this and other stories in Thursday's papers review.

13.1 9:15 Government to re-enact Emergency Powers Act

The government is likely to re-enforce the Emergency Powers Act as Covid case counts rise. Officials have begun preparations to adopt sections 86 and 88 of the Act, which were last in force during spring 2021. The activation of the two sections of the legislation would allow for cancellation of staff holidays and deviations from working time regulations.

Nevertheless, the infrequently-used law cannot be introduced before other preventative resorts are exhausted first.

More on this on Thursday's newspaper roundup.

12.1 18:42 Incidental Covid burdening hospitals

Finnish hospitalisation rates have increased recently, but as many as one in five Covid patients is actually being treated for something other than Covid. Read more here.

12.1 16:17 Ministry says Covid still dangerous

Finland's debate on adjustments to quarantine rules continues to rumble on. On Tuesday THL director Mika Salminen had suggested that people might take sick leave without an official quarantine order, to ease the pressure on municipal doctors as Covid case counts increase. That idea was rejected by the health ministry today. Read more here.

12.1 14:20 THL wants bar shutdown

Finland's health agency is recommending a three-week shutdown of pubs and bars in Finland to try and slow the spread of Covid. Read more here.

12.1 12:34 THL: 8,600 new cases on Wednesday, 22 more deaths

The Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported there were 8,661 new lab-confirmed coronavirus infections in Finland over the past day on Wednesday.

More than half of the day's new cases were diagnosed in the Uusimaa region, and the number of cases clearly increased in Southwestern Finland (799) compared to the previous day. On the other hand, case numbers have decreased in the Pirkanmaa region (under 500), since Tuesday.

Helsinki recorded nearly 2,000 new confirmed cases on Wednesday, roughly the same amount as the previous day.

Meanwhile an additional 22 people have died of Covid-related illness, bringing the country's epidemic death toll to 1,688.

12.1 9:48 Finland helps residents vote amid worsening epidemic

Multiple Finnish media outlets highlighted how safety concerns sparked by the rising number of Covid-19 cases in Finland will affect the upcoming county council elections.

Read more about this and other stories in Wednesday's newspaper review.

11.1 17:59 After Covid test VAT cut retailers reduce prices, but some pharmacies have not

Most of Finland's pharmacies said they passed on the savings to customers after a 24 percent value added tax (VAT) on home Covid tests were removed at the beginning of the year, according to results of an informal member survey by the Association of Finnish Pharmacies (AFP).

However, wholesale and retail prices for the tests have fluctuated since the beginning of the year, when VAT on the kits was eliminated by a temporary law change.

Read more here.

11.1 13:37 More than one third of adults have received third booster jabs

Nearly 100,000 people in Finland received their third Covid booster vaccinations over the past day, the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported on Tuesday.

Overall, around 32 percent of the population over the age of 12 had received booster jabs as of Tuesday, according to the THL.

The proportion of people who have received three booster shots increases with their age. For example, in 30-year-olds the coverage is around 10 percent while among 60-year-olds the coverage has breached 50 percent.

Around 74 of the country's population has received two Covid vaccinations as of Tuesday, according to the THL.

11.1 12:02 THL: 9,000+ cases on Tuesday, 10 further deaths

Finnish health authorities have reported 9,768 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases on Tuesday. The latest figures mean that nearly 100,000 Covid infections have been diagnosed in Finland over the past two weeks. The total number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic now stands at 338,615.

Public health authority THL has also registered 10 further deaths linked to the virus over the past 24 hours. Finland's overall toll from the pandemic has therefore risen to 1,666.

11.1 9:15 Millions of rapid tests and a plastic pandemic

This morning's domestic news roundup explores rapid Covid tests for students and the pandemic's impact on the environment, among other topics.

More here.

10.1 19:00 Helsinki opens reserve Covid hospital

A reserve facility devoted to treating Covid patients to ease the pressure on Helsinki's health care services opened in the Herttoniemi district on Monday.

A similar ward has previously opened at the Laakso Hospital, which currently has 104 Covid patients.

Coronavirus infections have increased at an accelerated pace in recent weeks, due to the arrival of the new virus variant Omicron, a situation that prompted the city to raise its hospital preparedness level last week.

The Helsinki area currently accounts for roughly one-quarter of the Finland's new Covid cases.

At the moment, the Herttoniemi reserve hospital can accommodate up to 50 patients at a time.

10.1 18:11 Arrival of new conscripts prompts uptick in Defence Forces' Covid cases

The coronavirus epidemic has worsened across all units of the Finnish Defence Forces since the beginning of the month, when new recruits began arriving to garrisons, according to the Defence Command.

The agency said that as of Sunday, 9 January 2022, some 856 members of the Defence Forces had tested positive for Covid-19.

For example, around 110 individuals at the Hattula and Riihimäki brigade garrisons had Covid, roughly a dozen of whom were full time staff members.

Additionally, approximately 500 people who were exposed to coronavirus were ordered to quarantine at the garrisons, including around 30 staff. The Defence Command said that the situation is expected to ease at the end of the month.

10.1 14:56 Helsinki eases quarantine requirement, ends most exposure tracing

The City of Helsinki and 11 other municipalities in the Uusimaa region have announced changes to practices regarding the tracing and quarantining of people exposed to coronavirus.

Read more here.

Meanwhile Yle understands that health authorities in the Pirkanmaa region, which includes the city of Tampere, are considering introducing similar measures.

"We are also discussing this issue in Pirkanmaa with the infectious disease doctors of the City of Tampere and other municipalities this week," TAYS Chief Physician Jaana Syrjänen told Yle.

Blog continues after photo

Sign informing restaurant customers about Covid passes. Image: Mia Sivula / Yle

10.1 13:52 Specialist slams ministry's suggestion that kids susceptible to long Covid

Health Minister Krista Kiuru's (SDP) call for remote learning in Finnish schools continues to draw criticism, most recently from Tea Nieminen, an infectious disease specialist at the New Children's Hospital of the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS).

Read more here.

10.1. 11:53 Finland reports 23,000+ cases on Monday, 600+ patients in hospitals

Public health authority THL has registered an additional 23,325 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases since Friday. The latest figures mean that nearly 90,000 Covid infections have been diagnosed in Finland over the past two weeks, which is 55,000 more infections compared to the previous 14-day period.

The agency also reported a further 18 deaths linked to the virus over the weekend. Finland's overall death toll from the pandemic now stands at 1,656.

There are currently 620 patients being treated in hospitals across the country for the virus, an increase of 112 from Friday. Of that number, some 63 people are in intensive care units, up from 55 on Friday.

9.1. 16:06 Nearly 10 million Covid jabs so far in Finland

On Sunday the THL health institute said that 77.5 percent of Finland's population have received at least one dose of vaccine. Meanwhile 74.1 percent of the total population have had a second dose and 26.1 percent have been given a third, booster shot.

Altogether close to 10 million doses of Covid vaccine have been administered in Finland within just over a year.

For previous updates click here.