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Several Finnish regions ending official quarantines

The rapid spread of the Omicron variant has made the system of quarantines imposed by communicable disease authorities ineffective.

A home coronavirus test in Espoo on 16 January 2022 showing a positive result. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

The hospital districts of Pirkanmaa and Central Finland as well as the City of Helsinki, have announced that they will abandon official quarantines, imposed by the authorities, on individuals testing positive for the coronavirus . The HUS areas where the new protocol will be rolled out in stages include Espoo, Hyvinkää, Järvenpää, Kauniainen, Kerava, Mäntsälä, Nurmijärvi, Pornainen, Porvoo, Sipoo, Tuusula and Vantaa.

Northern Ostrobothnia, Northern Savo, Southwest Finland and Turku will also be implementing the same practice.

In the future, anyone in these regions infected by the virus must self-isolate and report their exposure to people with whom they have been in close contact. Official isolation decisions issued by public authorities will only be used in situations in which an administrative decision can genuinely prevent further infections.

The change has been made due to the rapid rise in infections, which has made the communicable disease authorities ineffective in dealing with the spread of the virus. According to reports, most further infections have already taken place before a positive test result has come to the attention of the authorities.

"Since the Omicron variant is significantly contagious before the onset of symptoms and there are delays in testing, most of the follow-on infections have already occurred by the time the test result comes to the attention of the communicable disease authority. There is no epidemiological basis for placing a person in isolation," the Pirkanmaa Hospital District stated in a Friday press release.

According to the City of Helsinki, "The Omicron variant has become the main coronavirus strain and it has caused a rapid increase in daily infections since the beginning of December. As a result, coronavirus testing, contact tracing and primary healthcare services are extremely busy. It may take several days to get access to testing carried out by healthcare services."

Normal sick leave practices

Announcements of the change stress that it is important for people with respiratory symptoms to be able to stay away from work without worrying about loss of earnings.

Both the Pirkanmaa Hospital District and the City of Helsinki point out that employers do not have the right to demand an official quarantine order from the employee who decides to self-isolate.

As an alternative, these hospital districts suggest, for example, that employees be given the right to be absent from work for an extended period at their own notice, and that employers observe normal sick-leave benefit practices.

The hospital districts are urging anyone with a respiratory tract infection to stay home. If one's general health is good, they advise that there is no need to contact healthcare services or make a reservation for a coronavirus test.

In its release on Friday, the City of Helsinki stressed the personal responsibility of residents to slow the epidemic, saying that even mild symptoms of infection are reason to stay home and inform close contacts quickly.