Epidemic situation improves rapidly in Southwest Finland

In light of the improvements, local authorities are gradually lifting restrictions on sports activities and possibly raising caps on crowd sizes at public gatherings.

File photo of downtown Turku, located in Southwest Finland. Image: Saana Sjöblom-Hasselblatt / Yle

The coronavirus situation in the region of Southwest Finland has continued to further improve, according to local authorities.

The coronavirus coordination group of Southwest Finland, which met on Tuesday, said that if the positive trend continues there is a possibility that the region's epidemic classification could be downgraded from the most severe "spreading phase" to the "acceleration phase" as soon as next week.

While the region was still technically in the spreading phase, the group said only one out of four criteria needed for that classification was currently being met. Southwest Finland has been in the spreading phase for nearly the past six months.

The region's epidemic situation has calmed down considerably in recent weeks. As recently as a week ago its new case incident rate was nearly 100 out of 100,000 inhabitants over the past two weeks. As of Tuesday the region's incidence rate was 55.5 out of 100,000 residents.

According to the freshest data, there were 295 new cases recorded in the region over a two-week period, compared to 475 cases two weeks prior.

The easing of a coronavirus cluster in the city of Salo has helped bring down the case numbers in particular, according to Southwest Finland hospital district's infectious diseases chief physician, Esa Rintala.

"The situation has indeed calmed down in Salo, as well, and thanks to effective testing and infection chain tracing, the incidence rate has dropped to about 70," Rintala said.

On Tuesday, the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported there were a total of 12 new cases in the region over the past day.

Group opens up kids' sports activites

The region's coronavirus coordination group recommended that as of Tuesday, children's and youth sports hobbies could resume, following epidemic-related restrictions on such activities.

The group also said that adult sports activities would be able to resume on 8 June, provided that the favourable developments in the epidemic continued.

Additionally, the group recommended maintaining the regional cap on gatherings to a maximum of 10 for the time being. However, starting at the beginning of June, the group recommended raising the cap to 20 and said that the number could be further increased if the situation continues to improve.

The Regional State Administrative Agency of Southwestern Finland (Avi) is currently preparing new decisions regarding the maximum permitted number of people at public gatherings. The body's decision will enter into force on 1 June, after current rules expire at the end of this month.