The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL has stated that the number of lab-confirmed coronavirus infections linked to tourist trips to St. Petersburg has now risen to 120.
"By yesterday [Friday] afternoon, more than 120 cases had been detected among travellers returning from St. Petersburg. Most of the infections have been detected in travellers who have returned from the European Football Championships," director of THL's Department for Health Security Mika Salminen said.
Although public debate in Finland has revolved around returning football fans, Salminen said the THL's call to undergo a coronavirus test applies to all tourists returning from St. Petersburg. There are so many infections that anyone who travelled in a bus or minivan should take precautions, he added.
"Everyone who has travelled on a bus or in a minivan could have been exposed. People need to apply for a coronavirus test as early as this week, and not wait until next week," Salmimen said.
According to THL's assessment, it is possible that some of the infections may be the Delta variant, previously known as the variant first detected in India.
"The assessment is slow and technical, and it can take up to two weeks to get results from these tests. You have to act on the assumption that these can be it [the Delta variant]. The measures are exactly the same regardless of which variant is involved," he said, adding that authorities are continuing efforts to contact all people who may have been exposed to the virus.
"We have received lists of people who were there at the border crossing, and with the help of these lists, municipalities are trying to reach people. There are always some challenges, some people may not have even gone on the trip, have changed buses or returned via a different route. It can never be 100 percent accurate, but the municipalities are doing their best," he said.
THL further recommends that anyone who may have been in contact with tourists who returned from St. Petersburg to Finland should also apply for a coronavirus test.
Cases reported all over the country
Infections related to travel to St. Petersburg have been detected all over Finland.
"A large part are in the Helsinki metropolitan area, Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa. There are also infections in Turku, Hämeenlinna, Kuopio, Jyväskylä and even Oulu. They are all over Finland," Salimen said, adding that identifying infections is a positive thing, as it reduces the risk of further cases.
Last Tuesday, about 800 people were allowed to enter Finland at the Vaalimaa border crossing without the need for a coronavirus test or health checkup.
Authorities decided to make an exception to the rule about testing as traffic was heavily congested at the border crossing, especially as hundreds of football fans returned from watching Finland play Belgium in the European Championship finals in St. Petersburg on Monday evening.