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THL doc: Get tested if you have symptoms, even during holidays

Coronavirus testing capacities were raised over the holidays in Lapland and the capital region.

Health care worker at a coronavirus drive-in testing point. Image: Linda Söderlund / Yle

Residents in Finland with possible Covid-19 symptoms should seek out coronavirus tests immediately, even if they are not in their hometown over the holidays, according to the chief physician at the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), Taneli Puumalainen.

While local health authorities have advised against travel during the holidays, some residents have decided to head out on Christmas visits, often heading to smaller communities.

Puumalainen noted that individuals can still seek out coronavirus tests even when they're not in their home municipalities.

"People [with symptoms] should immediately contact local health centres in the places that they're visiting to find out when a corona test can be obtained. While waiting for the test, you should use a face mask and isolate yourself from others," Puumalainen said.

Find a place to quarantine

People often stay overnight at the homes of friends and family they visit. Puumalainen said that alternative accommodations should be considered if symptoms begin to appear, especially if the people being visited are elderly or belong to coronavirus risk groups.

Depending on circumstances, the duration of the visit and accommodation arrangements, Puumalainen said it would be best for symptomatic individuals to stay where they are, when and if symptoms begin.

However, he acknowledged it is not possible to offer universal advice which would be suitable in all situations.

"It depends on the circumstances and what makes the most sense. The most important thing is to determine testing possibilities as soon as symptoms appear--by telephone or online.

If one member of a group begins to get symptoms, Puumalainen said it was not usually advisable for everyone in the group to get tested.

Testing and symptoms

"The test result tells you what the current situation is. At the time of taking the test sample, the incubation period of the disease may be in progress, but still not yet visible in the test," Puumalainen explained.

On Wednesday the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS), the region with the highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases, announced plans to expand testing facilities' opening hours at a number of locations in the area. Visitors to the region are being advised to seek out tests by telephone.

However, there is no exact information regarding testing capacities across the country over the holidays, but the arrival of holiday travellers in the most popular tourist destinations of the country are prepared, according to Puumalainen.

"We know that at least Helsinki and Lapland are well prepared for an increase in visitors during the Christmas and New Year holidays. They've set up additional testing capacity for the holidays," Puumalainen said.

Symptoms suggesting possible coronavirus infections include: fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath, loss of the sense of smell or taste, as well as diarrhoea or abdominal pain without any other obvious causes.