Minister: Finland to significantly increase Covid-19 testing

Minister for Basic Services and Health Krista Kiuru says the country can raise testing to 10,000 per day.

Minister for Basic Services and Health Krista Kiuru (file photo). Image: Petteri Sopanen / Yle

Finland is planning to dramatically increase Covid-19 testing, according to Minister for Basic Services and Health Krista Kiuru. In a column posted on the ministry’s website on Thursday evening, Kiuru said that Finland's public health care system could increase the numbers of tests to 7,000 per day and that private care firms could boost their testing to up to 3,000 a day.

She said that continuous, increased testing has been part of Finland’s strategy fighting coronavirus since the epidemic broke out in the country.

According to Finland’s Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), the country had carried out a total of around 39,000 by Thursday afternoon, with about 2,500 tests having been done over the past day.

At the beginning of the epidemic in Finland, the country only carried out a few hundred tests per day, Kiuru wrote, and increased to about 1,700 daily tests in mid-March. In time, however, with help from private health care firms, Finland can soon increase daily testing levels to about 10,000.

She said that testing will focus on symptomatic medical workers, social and health care personnel with even mild symptoms, individuals critical to the functioning of society who have the slightest suspicion of infection, people belonging to coronavirus risk groups suspected of being exposed to the virus as well as relatives of those with confirmed Covid-19 infections.

No plans for general testing

However, the minister noted there are currently no plans to carry out untargeted tests of the general population who are asymptomatic, saying such a move was not appropriate at this stage.

Kiuru also noted that there has been much discussion in the country regarding antibody testing and the role it could play in fighting the epidemic. Such sampling can determine whether people have unknowingly already had a coronavirus infection.

Earlier this week the THL announced it would research the spread of the disease with the help of broad antibody testing.

However, in her column, Kiuru said antibody testing can only be effective when there are sufficient levels of people who have the infection and when tests are reliable and widely available.

Despite that, she said antibody testing efforts were still important because they can provide helpful information for an overall picture of the epidemic's extent. At this point, she said the antibody testing to be carried out will be for research purposes.

She said the planning stages of the testing, to be done in tandem by THL and university hospitals, is complete and that the selection of the study’s first test subjects - a process which is random and with the participants' consent - is underway.