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Surge in coronavirus testing of children

A quarter of recent tests at the Fimlab testing centre were carried out on children under the age of 10.

Fimlab carries out coronavirus testing across Finland. Image: Antti Eintola / Yle

An increasing number of children and young people are taking coronavirus tests, according to the latest testing figures provided by Finland's largest laboratory company, Fimlab.

The company’s Service Director Anu Mustila told Yle that there has been a noticeable shift in the age of people presenting for coronavirus testing.

"Adults and the elderly were mostly being tested in the spring. Now a lot of people under the age of 10 and also under the age of twenty are being tested. Their share has risen significantly," Mustila said.

Fimlab tests and analyses samples for public health care needs in the Pirkanmaa, Central Finland, Kanta-Häme, Ostrobothnia and Päijät-Häme regions.

Over the past week, one in four tests at Fimlab testing points have been carried out on children under the age of 10, while one in three have been on people aged under 20.

The change is also visible in hospitals, where an increasing number of children and young people are being tested, Chief Physician of the Pirkanmaa Hospital District and Tampere University Hospital Juhani Sand told Yle.

"This is a huge rise, but it is also understandable. Summer vacations are coming to an end, and schools and kindergartens are about to begin," Sand said, adding that tests for young children can take a little longer than for adults.

Priority testing for older people?

No coronavirus infections were found in children or young adults in any of the recent tests analysed by Fimlab, leading Mustila to question if older people should be given priority for tests, especially when backlogs are beginning to form.

"The fact is that children and young people are being tested, but they do not have coronavirus. At this point, I would think that when there are starting to be challenges with capacity, maybe testing should be targeted at people of working age and older," Mustila said.

However, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare's (THL's) national guideline is that all respiratory infections should be tested. A child with symptoms cannot attend daycare or school, even with a negative test result.

Chief Physician Sand believes THL's instructions are justified.

"Now that the incidence of COVID infection is on the rise in Europe and also in the Nordic countries, increasing testing is one important issue alongside these other prevention measures," he said.