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Pandemic has likely peaked in Finland, but hospital patient load decreasing slowly, say health officials

Many indicators suggest that the Covid pandemic is easing. The number of new infections has fallen for a third week.

Liisa-Maria Voipio-Pulkki, Director of Strategic Affairs at the health ministry, and Mika Salminen, Director of Health Security at THL, sounded a cautiously positive note at Thursday's press conference. Image: Lehtikuva

The number of coronavirus infections in Finland has decreased for the third week in a row, officials from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) said at their weekly press briefing on Thursday.

While the rate of new lab-confirmed infections has declined in all age groups and regions, there are still many patients needing hospital care.

The hospital patient load is declining slowly, due to the number of elderly patients and declining overall levels of vaccination coverage.

Slow uptake of second booster jabs

"We have taken this into account in the recommendation for booster vaccinations. The fourth jabs are very important for those for whom it is recommended, [but] less than half of them have taken it so far," said Liisa-Maria Voipio-Pulkki, Director of Strategic Affairs at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

About a month ago, the THL recommended a fourth dose of vaccine for those over the age of 80 as well as for residents of care homes.

The burden of specialist care has peaked, while the need for intensive care has also fallen since March, officials said.

In contrast, the decline in the number of patients in primary care wards has been slower.

"This is because the infections are more concentrated in the older population and we still have some cases from nursing homes," explained Voipio-Pulkki.

Fatality rate hits all-time low

According to figures released on Wednesday, there were 285 patients in specialist care wards and 28 patients in intensive care units. There were 505 patients in primary care wards, more than half of them were admitted primarily due to Covid.

"Intensive care is only required for a little over one patient per 1,000 infections," said Mika Salminen, Director of the THL's Department of Health Security.

The proportion of deaths from confirmed Covid cases is also at its lowest level since the pandemic hit Finland just over two years ago.

Wastewater RNA levels remain high

Meanwhile plenty of coronavirus is still being detected in wastewater samples, but the level has not increased.

The amount of coronavirus in wastewater has remained stable for several weeks.

In Joensuu, Lappeenranta, Pori and Vaasa, levels in wastewater began to decline last week. In other monitoring locations, volumes remained consistently high.

Coronavirus RNA is known to be excreted into wastewater for an average of three weeks after infection.

On Thursday Finland reported its one millionth lab-confirmed case of Covid-19 since late January 2020, when a Chinese tourist in Lapland was diagnosed with the first case.