Eastern Finland sees uptick in hospitalisations following restaurant restrictions lift

Restrictions on bars and restaurants were relaxed across the North Savo region last Friday and in North Karelia in September.

Bars and restaurants in the region have seen a marked increase in customers on the weekends. Image: Berislav Jurišić / Yle

Emergency rooms in Eastern Finland have noted an uptick in people seeking medical care compared to earlier stages of the coronavirus crisis.

There have also been more alcohol-related injuries and ailments seen in the region.

According to the director of North Karelia's first aid services, Kari Törrönen, the patient influx started after coronavirus-related restaurant restrictions were lifted.

The restrictions were relaxed across the North Savo region last Friday and in North Karelia in the middle of September.

"People are stone cold drunk," Törrönen said.

"After all, restaurants were open during the [epidemic], but then [our] work was smoother. Now there's a huge torrent," he explained.

Bars and restaurants in the region have seen a marked increase in customers, especially on weekends. For example, chain restaurants belonging to the local S-Group cooperative in North Karelia have seen more customers than at any stage since the epidemic started.

On the other hand, the cooperative's restaurants in North Savo are currently quieter than usual, but the lifting of restrictions has caused a slight increase in customer visits.

Emergency services in the North Karelia area have seen an increase in substance abuse-related calls, according to Heljä Vänni, the director of services at Siun sote, the region's social and health services municipal authority.

Vänni said health care workers were treating patients involved in "accidents, fights or other calamities as well as substance abuse-related matters."

The number of emergency room visits at Kuopio University Hospital has also increased, and are now for the most part at pre-pandemic levels, according to chief physician Sari Hämäläinen, who added that the number of such visits could still continue to rise.

"I suspect that as the autumn vacation week approaches we will see more visitors on holiday, more than last year," Hämäläinen said.