Covid pass tests likely to be carried out by private sector at user expense

According to Salminen, a return to normal is already in sight, since as of next week Finland will have received enough doses to achieve 80 percent coverage.

Salminen was interviewed on the Yle TV1 current affairs programme Ykkösaamu. Image: Tommi Pylkkö / Yle

If the proposed coronavirus passport is implemented, testing for it would be done through private healthcare at each user's expense, according to Mika Salminen, Director of Health Security at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

The government has promised decisions on its new Covid strategy on Monday. This may include the introduction of a coronavirus passport similar to those in use in Denmark and elsewhere. The document certifies that the holder has either been vaccinated, recently tested negative or recovered from the illness.

"The coronavirus passport could be used to ensure that most people are protected when people get together. That would prevent the majority of infections from spreading," Salminen told Yle on Saturday.

Unvaccinated people could also get a coronavirus passport, but that would require proof of a negative test. Public health care could no longer cope with this growing need for testing, said Salminen.

"This is in the hands of the government, but I understand that the testing required for the coronavirus passport is to be left to commercial operators. The current testing model and the capacity of the health sector are insufficient. In other words, if you want to go to a bar, for example, but don't want to take the vaccine, the alternative will probably be to take the test and pay for it yourself," he said.

Various ministries have proposed that Covid passports be used at places such as swimming pools, sports centres and gyms, but not for essential services such as grocery stores, hairdressers, post offices, pharmacies or libraries.

Salminen described the coronavirus passport as a temporary measure, explaining that the need for a coronavirus passport would be eliminated when the population reaches a sufficient level of immunity.

Vaccine coverage will still determine how quickly restrictions can be lifted in Finland. The government is aiming for 80 percent full vaccine coverage next month, but Salminen said that no absolute correct limit can be set.

"We have to get used to the fact that there will be some infections despite vaccinations. The situation will become relatively normal, especially if we give up on our fears," he said.

As of Saturday, 72.3 percent of the population had received at least one dose of vaccine, with 52.5 percent fully inoculated.

According to Salminen, a return to normal is already in sight, since as of next week Finland will have received enough doses to achieve 80 percent coverage.

New legislation needed

The pandemic has highlighted some of Finnish society's weaknesses in preparedness, but also provided an opportunity to learn, said Salminen.

"There is a clear need to review the legislation on preparedness as well as the appropriate and proportionate use of control measures. There have been challenges in these areas," he said.

For instance, at first it was difficult to for one organisation to have an adequate overall picture of the crisis for society as a whole.

"Lessons should be learned from the regional coronavirus coordination groups, which are informal. It would be good to replace them with something more permanent for the future," Salminen suggested.

Salminen was interviewed on the Yle TV1 current affairs programme Ykkösaamu.

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