THL urges caution as festive season approaches

At their weekly Covid briefing, health officials urged people to be cautious as the pre-Christmas party season approaches. 

Online Christmas parties might be Covid-safe, but it's unclear whether they will be popular this year. Image: Anne Savin / Yle

Finland's Covid situation looks to be getting worse, with increasing case counts, higher test positivity and greater strain on hospitals and healthcare providers — just as the run-up to Christmas prompts greater social mixing and therefore possible exposures to Covid.

That's according to the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and the Ministry for Social Affairs and Health at their weekly Covid briefing.

In the seven days to 7 November, new Covid infections were up 26 percent on the previous week, officials said at the briefing.

The positivity rate rose above 6 percent nationwide, and in parts of the country was as high as 11 percent. As of 10 November, the number of Covid patients in hospital was 253, with 28 of those in intensive care.

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At the same time, the rate of vaccine uptake has slowed considerably.

"One important observation is that the delivery of first and second doses has slowed considerably," said Otto Helve, a Chief Physician at THL.

"In the last week the number of doses delivered has reduced such that first doses are down 35 percent on the previous week, and second doses are down by as much as 40 percent on the last full week," he said.

Pikkujoulu problems?

That is an issue for the government's Covid strategy, which relies primarily on increasing the vaccination rate.

Officials expressed some concern about the upcoming pre-Christmas pikkujoulu festive season, which is expected to see more social mixing and therefore more exposure to Covid.

The ministry's Director of Strategic Affairs Pasi Pohjola added a touch of irony to the proceedings by reminding media that experts had at times stood in press conferences as "doomsayers warning of festive season infections".

Pohjola reminded partygoers to take personal precautions, including hand-washing and cough hygiene.

Helve urged people to get vaccinated before heading out for a big celebration, while the ministry's Director-General of Strategic Affairs, Liisa-Maria Voipio-Pulkki, said people should consider celebrating with people they see every day anyway, to minimise the risk of spreading Covid.