Greater Helsinki region burdened with spike in coronavirus tests

The capital area's hospital district plans to expand capacity by adding new Covid-19 testing points.

A health worker takes a swab sample from a client testing for Covid-19 at a drive-in testing site at Helsinki University Hospital in Helsinki on 31 July, 2020. Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva

Demand for novel coronavirus tests in the capital region last week was one of the highest of the summer, according to the Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district's (HUS) interim chief medical officer, Jarkko Pajarinen.

He said that even though it wasn't a record-breaking week in terms of the ongoing coronavirus crisis overall, so many tests were carried out that capacity levels at testing sites were reached.

"It wasn't quite the absolute peak of testing [last week], but they were at a very high level, yes. The load is high," Pajarinen said.

"There were delays in testing, especially at testing points in Espoo and Vantaa. In particular more people visited sampling points at Vantaa's Peijas Hospital and Jorvi Hospital in Espoo, than before," he explained.

However, Pajarinen noted that it was difficult to say why people have increasingly been seeking out tests. He said that it was a positive development, even though testing points have been congested.

"Yes, it's one of the ways to control the epidemic, to catch as many of those who have the infection as possible," he said.

The increase has cause queuing times to extend to several days, according to the district.

New testing points coming

"The problems are being tackled on many fronts. New testing queues are about to open over the next few days and [as they do] it will significantly increase capacity. And we also have further plans for the future," Pajarinen said.

However, he said it takes several days to set up new testing queues and get them up and running.

"It won't happen right away, but additional capacity is still being established in Espoo and at the hospital campus in Meilahti [Helsinki] in the coming days," he said.

A second drive-in Covid-19 test queue will be set up at the hospital in Espoo's Matinkylä on Wednesday, in addition to the one already in place.

HUS is also discussing hiring more staff, as well as possibly spreading out testing points across the region, a move which could shift tests from heavily-congested testing points to ones that are less busy.