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Covid updates 9.3-1.5.2022

28.4 13:42 HUS urges Covid caution ahead of May Day celebrations

A spike in infections may occur after May Day festivities, according to Eeva Ruotsalainen of the Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district.

With May Day celebrations just a few days away, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) has said that revellers should follow local recommendations to help mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

However, the public health authority has stopped short of issuing specific guidelines on how to celebrate the holiday this weekend.

Read more here.

27.4 17:20 Finnish President: Covid symptoms fading, now recovering from pneumonia

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, who was diagnosed with Covid-19 last week, was discharged from a Helsinki hospital on Wednesday after a nearly two-day stay.

He said his Covid symptoms were diminishing, but he was now dealing with a case of pneumonia.

Read more here.

27.4 12:58 Slight uptick in hospitalisations

There were 812 people being treated for Covid-related illness in Finnish hospitals as of Wednesday, 24 of whom were in intensive care, according to the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

The figures represented an increase of 30 overall patients and two fewer ICU patients.

27.4 12:53 Covid-positive president feels relatively well

President Sauli Niinistö, who tested positive for Covid-19 last week and spent Tuesday night in the hospital for observation due to prolonged symptoms of the illness, was feeling relatively well on Wednesday, according to the Office of the President.

26.4 14:38 Finns told to hug again, maybe

As meeting and greeting resumes in Finland, some are wondering whether handshakes and hugs are appropriate.

It's a good idea to have a person's permission before touching them, according to Asko Järvinen, Chief Physician and head of the infectious diseases department at the Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district (HUS).

Read more on this story here.

25.4 18:59 Finland to review second vaccination booster plans

The National Advisory Committee on Vaccines (Krar) is scheduled to discuss possible rollouts of second Covid booster vaccinations to people under the age of 80 on Friday.

Last week, two experienced physicians in Finland — Eeva Ruotsalainen and Markku Broas — called for health authorities to roll out fourth Covid vaccines for younger age groups.

At the moment, fourth jabs are being offered to people over the age of 80 who live in nursing homes or severely immunocompromised.

Read more here.

25.4 18:14 Fewer patients with Covid in Finnish hospitals

Hospitalisations of people with Covid-19 have continued to decrease, according to the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

As of Monday there were 782 people with the illness in hospitals around the country, 26 of whom were in intensive care wards.

Monday's overall hospital occupancy represents a decrease of 51 patients since Friday. THL updates such data on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

21.4 18:31 Finland passes 1 million confirmed infections

Public health authority THL has reported 50,889 lab-confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday. The latest figures mean that Finland has registered just over one million confirmed cases of the virus throughout the entire pandemic.

The agency also reported 121 further deaths linked to the virus, bringing Finland's overall pandemic toll to 3,638.

21.4 12:45 Interior Minister tests positive

Finland's Interior Minister Krista Mikkonen (Green) confirmed in a tweet (siirryt toiseen palveluun) on Thursday morning that she has tested positive for coronavirus.

The minister added that she will work remotely as much as possible.

20.4 18:31 Helsinki region drops general mask recommendation

Helsinki's Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group recommended on Wednesday that people can reduce the use of protective face masks in public places if they wish.

The group (siirryt toiseen palveluun), consisting of officials, authorities and medical experts from the area, said that children and youths in the cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa will not be required to wear face masks on school premises. They added that those who wish to continue wearing the protective devices can still do so and that schools will continue to provide masks free of charge.

Read more here.

19.4 14:36 Finnish President tests positive for Covid-19

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö has tested positive for Covid-19, the president's office announced on Tuesday.

Read more here.

19.4 13:15 Retail sector drops face mask recommendation

The Finnish Commerce Federation and Finnish Grocery Trade Association (PTY) on Tuesday called for the abandonment of recommendations to use masks in stores and shops.

After about two years of recommending the use of protective devices, the groups' announcement came shortly after the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) said it was dropping its general face mask recommendation.

Read more here.

14.4 14:39 Finland records 183 new Covid deaths in past week

Finland on Thursday recorded a total of 183 Covid-related fatalities over the past week, bringing the country's epidemic death toll to 3,517, according to the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

The health agency also reported that there were 28,891 new lab-confirmed Covid cases diagnosed across Finland over the past week. The agency has said that the actual number of new cases is much higher, due to reduced testing for the virus.

14.4 13:50 Finland drops mask recommendation

THL is to drop its general mask recommendation, on the grounds that mask usage does not significantly slow the spread of Covid. The agency will still recommend people in certain circumstances, including on public transport, wear face masks. Read our story here.

13.4 9:20 Domestic violence rose during pandemic

Ilta-Sanomat wrote (siirryt toiseen palveluun) that according to a new study published by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), domestic violence and sexual harrassment has become more common.

During the Covid pandemic, the lives of young people were restricted by distance learning and cancellation of other activities, severely impacting their well-being. The Covid disruption also made it more difficult to seek and receive help in crisis situations, Iltasanomat wrote.

There were differences in the experiences of young people by welfare depending on area and economic background. Girls in Ostrobothnia, Eastern Uusimaa, and Helsinki said they had experienced the most violence in the past year.

"In basic services, it is essential to pay attention to the issue of domestic violence and to the needs of migrants and children in particular. It is important to communicate about domestic violence and getting help in a multilingual and multi-channel manner," said Johanna Hietamäki, THL's special researcher speaking to Iltasanomat.

12.4 17:14 Report finds shortcomings in Finland's handling of pandemic

Finland's handling of the second phase of the Covid crisis was relatively good, but there were shortcomings, according to a study carried out by the Nordic Healthcare Group and the University of Tampere.

In one example, the report's authors noted that while gyms and museums were forced to close for extended periods, bars and restaurants were largely allowed to stay open.

Read more on this story here.

8.4 15:10 THL: Hospitalisations continue to drop

Some 924 coronavirus patients are currently being treated in hospitals across the country, according to health authority THL. This means that the number of hospitalisations has decreased by 40 since Wednesday.

The number of patients treated in intensive care units has also decreased since Wednesday from 45 to 33.

8.4 11:40 More than 200 people tell Yle they've been reinfected

Experts from the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital Districts (HUS) said that it is likely that some will be infected with Covid again during the spring. According to Lasse Lehtonen, HUS's Director of Diagnostic Services, the risk of a new Covid infection after four months is already quite high.

Yle questioned its readers on if they have been reinfected by Covid. Out of 443 respondents, 66 percent responded that they have been infected by Covid more than once. Additionally, six percent of respondents had been infected three times with Covid.

7.4 12:32 THL: pandemic becoming less lethal but social effects now evident

Finland's coronavirus incidence and death rates are in decline, latest figures show. This is according to the Institute of Health and Welfare (THL) and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (STM).

THL director Mika Salminen said that the number of deaths in proportion to people infected is at its lowest since the beginning of the pandemic. Yet, the burden the virus places on the healthcare system of the country is still high.

During Thursday's bi-weekly Covid briefing, the agencies also addressed the pandemic's social impacts. The pandemic has created a severe bottleneck in the healthcare and social welfare sectors, with mental healthcare services having been hit especially hard. Financial support applications are also on the rise, STM revealed.

Read the full story here.

6.4 12:28 Minister: Finland's Covid situation still serious

Finland's coronavirus situation is still serious, even though the media has largely turned to other news topics, according to the Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services, Aki Lindén (SDP).

He pointed out that 371 people had died from Covid-related illness in the past two weeks and that the country's hospitals were treating around 950 patients with the illness, 45 of whom requiring intensive care treatment.

Read more here.

4.4 12:14 THL: 11k cases, 74 deaths over the weekend

Finland recorded 11,710 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases since Friday, the last time such figures were published, the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported on Monday.

The agency noted that the daily case figures issued aren’t representative of the actual, and larger, number of cases due to less testing for the disease.

THL also confirmed 74 new Covid-related fatalities on Monday, bringing Finland's epidemic death toll to 3,252.

3.4 13:00 Many likely to catch coronavirus multiple times, HUS says

Coronavirus reinfections are surging in the capital region as immunity acquired through previous infection wanes. Many of those now contracting the virus in Finland's most populous region have already had Covid.

The highly contagious Omicron subvariant BA.2, the dominant coronavirus strain in Uusimaa, has led to a surge in cases since early February.

More on this story here.

1.4 14:05 Finland records nearly 6,000 cases on Friday

Finnish health authorities have registered a total of 5,950 lab-confirmed coronavirus cases on Friday. The latest figures mean that over 889,000 infections have been diagnosed in Finland throughout the entire pandemic.

THL has also reported a further 34 deaths linked to the virus over the past 24 hours. Finland's overall toll now stands at 3,178.

The number of people being treated in hospital for the virus has however fallen to 983, having climbed to 1,065 -- the highest level since the pandemic began -- earlier this week.

1.4 13:41 Record number of Covid infections in South Savo

The South Savo Social and Healthcare Authority (Essote) has said that the Covid-19 situation in the region continues to be critical. Last week, the hospital district reported a total of 1,802 infections—the highest number recorded during the pandemic.

The area reported the same amount of cases four weeks ago. According to Essote's director of health services Santeri Seppälä, one reason behind this could be the district's comparatively high testing rate.

The surge in cases has also increased the healthcare burden in the area, with 35 patients hospitalised for Covid and three in intensive care. Seppälä says that rising infections have also led to a staff shortage, as a growing number of healthcare workers are falling ill. Additionally, hospitals have had to repeatedly postpone non-urgent medical procedures.

30.3 13:42 THL: 9,320 cases, 50 deaths on Wednesday

Finland recorded 9,320 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported.

The agency noted that the daily case figures issued aren’t representative of the actual, and larger, number of cases due to less testing for the disease.

THL also reported on Wednesday of 50 Covid-related fatalities.

As of Wednesday there were 40 Covid patients receiving care in intensive care units. Overall, there were 1,065 people with Covid in hospitals across Finland.

29.3 14:33 THL: 5,300 cases on Tuesday

Finland recorded 5,338 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases over the past day, the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported on Tuesday.

The agency noted that the daily case figures it issues are no longer representative of the actual, and larger, number of cases due to less testing for the disease.

THL also reported one additional Covid-related fatality, bringing Finland's overall epidemic death toll to 3,055.

29.3 9:13 Papers: Covid patient numbers hits 1,000

Coronavirus infections in Finland are shooting up, reports Hufvusdstadsbladet (siirryt toiseen palveluun), with the Swedish language newspaper writing on Tuesday that there were some 1,060 patients with Covid being treated in Finnish hospitals as of Monday, 42 of whom were in intensive care.

Monday therefore marked the first time the Covid patient count breached 1,000 since the crisis began more than two years ago.

Read more on this story, and the rest of our Tuesday morning paper review, here.

28.3 18:17 Hospitals treating more than 1,000 people with Covid

There were a total of 1,068 patients with Covid being treated in Finnish hospitals as of Monday, 42 of whom were in intensive care, according to collected hospital district data.

The new figures marked the first time the Covid patient count breached 1,000 since the crisis began more than two years ago.

28.3 13:20 Finland passes 3,000 Covid-related deaths

Finnish health authorities have registered 14,764 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases since Friday, bringing Finland's overall toll since the beginning of the pandemic to 859,477.

A further 69 deaths linked to the virus have also been reported over the weekend. Finland's overall toll from the pandemic now stands at 3,054.

25.3 14:45 Over 10K new cases, 34 more deaths; ICU load stable

The Institute for Health and Welfare, THL, reported 10,675 new lab-confirmed coronavirus infections on Friday, but noted that the number of untested infections may be much higher.

It also announced that 34 more people had died of Covid-linked causes.

The number of patients requiring hospitalisation has remained stable, with 969 people in hospital, 32 of them in intensive care.

24.3 12:16 Fourth doses recommended for over-80s

THL is now recommending those aged over 80, and those living in care homes, get a fourth dose of Covid vaccine. Severely immuno-compromised people have already been recommended to get a fourth dose.

The move adds around 300,000 people to the numbers being offered a fourth dose. Read our story here.

23.3 16:40 THL records 9,312 cases on Wednesday

The Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) has reported 9,312 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases in Finland. This brings the total case toll to over 821,000 since the beginning of the pandemic.

The daily figure could in reality be much higher, according to the agency, due to a lack of testing. The majority of the new cases were detected in the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District.

Finnish hospitals are currently treating some 969 Covid patients, 32 of which are in critical care, according to THL. The agency also recorded 67 deaths, bringing the total toll to 2, 948.

23.3 10:51 "The virus has spread everywhere," says minister

"The virus has spread everywhere," says minister

Finland's Minister for Family Affairs and Social Services, Aki Lindén (SDP) says that the Covid situation is still serious, but there are no plans for new restrictions. 900 patients with Covid are in hospitals and 45 are in intensive care.

Lindén stressed that restrictions are not required at the moment, but pointed to 1,500 patients with Covid as a threshold for taking action.

Read more on this story, and the rest of our Wednesday morning paper review, here.

22.3 9:22 Half of Uusimaa has had Omicron, top doc says

Coronavirus infections are again rising in Uusimaa following a three-week downward trend.

Asko Järvinen, Chief Physician and head of the infectious diseases department at the Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district (HUS), said most likely half of Uusimaa residents have been infected with the Omicron variant by now.

Read more about this story in Tuesday morning's domestic media roundup.

21.3 12:45 THL: 25,000 cases, 98 deaths over the weekend

Finland recorded 25,705 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases over the weekend, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported on Monday.

The agency noted that the daily case figures it issues are no longer representative of the actual, and larger, number of cases due to less testing for the disease.

THL on Monday also reported 98 Covid-related fatalities since the last time it reported such deaths, on Friday.

As of Monday there were 45 Covid patients receiving care in intensive care units, an increase of five people since Friday. Overall, there were 953 people being treated for Covid-related illness in hospitals around Finland as of Monday, 46 more than on Friday.

21.3 9:17 Papers: Finland considers second booster

Finnish vaccine experts are meeting on Monday to decide whether to administer a fourth Covid vaccine dose for older adults. At the moment Finland only recommends second boosters for severely immunocompromised individuals.

Read more on this story, and the rest of our Monday morning paper review, here.

19.3 Treasury offers more compensation for pandemic closures

On Tuesday, the State Treasury will begin accepting applications (siirryt toiseen palveluun) for compensation for firms whose business suffered due to pandemic closure orders. The compensation applies to the closures and prohibitions between 21 December 2021 to 28 February 2022.

It could cover sports facilities, dance venues, indoor playgrounds, restaurants and bars, for instance, as well as public events for at least 50 people that were cancelled rather than postponed.

The application round runs from 22 March until 20 April.

17.3 19:07 Number of Covid patients in hospitals still on the rise

Hospitals in Finland have reported an increase in the number of Covid patients in recent weeks. As of Thursday, there were 820 coronavirus patients in hospitals; of these, 38 were in intensive care.

In an interview with Yle, Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Aki Lindén (SDP) said that current discussions of the war in Ukraine have overshadowed concerns related to the pandemic, which he cautions is not over yet. Lindén added that he is particularly worried about the impact of the pandemic on the elderly and at-risk groups.

However, THL Director of Health Security Mika Salminen said that he does not see any benefits to reintroducing restrictions as they would only cause a delay of transmission of the virus, not eliminate its spread.

17.3 13:45 New cases down to 4,300 on Thursday

The Finnish health authority THL has confirmed 4,295 new Covid cases on Thursday. The agency also added 20 new fatalities to the total toll, which now stands at 2,783 since the beginning of the pandemic.

Nearly 4.5 million people in Finland have meanwhile received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

17.3 13:22 Social services minister: Post-Covid normality is in sight

Interim minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Aki Lindén (SDP) estimates that everyday life for people in Finland following the Covid pandemic will look "much more normal" by May-June.

What this post-Covid normality will look like remains unclear though, Lindén said on Yle's morning show on Thursday.

He also added that postponing the relaxation of mask recommendations was a good move considering that Finland is still recording thousands of new cases each day.

Read more here.

16.3 15:32 Finland records 11,000 new cases on Wednesday

Finland recorded 11,397 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases over the past day on Wednesday, according to health agency THL.

The agency again noted that the daily figures it issues are no longer representative of the actual, and larger, number of cases due to less testing for the disease.

An additional 44 Covid-related fatalities were also reported on Wednesday.

15.3 15:06 Ukrainian refugees to be vaccinated against Covid

Finland has set aside Covid vaccine doses for asylum seekers arriving from Ukraine, Mia Kontio, chief specialist at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), has confirmed.

The Covid vaccination rate in Ukraine is low, with 35 percent of the population receiving two doses of the vaccine and only 1.7 percent getting the booster shot.

According to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, Ukraine had recorded a surge in coronavirus cases prior to the conflict.

"Low rates of testing since the start of the conflict mean there is likely to be significant undetected transmission," Ghebreyesus stated in a tweet on 2 March, adding that this, along with low vaccination coverage, increases the risk of people developing severe illness.

Health officials from the EU and WHO have recommended that host countries provide Ukrainian asylum seekers with the vaccine.

15.3 12:57 THL: Booster vaccination protection "excellent" among elderly

According to the latest data from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine provide effective protection against the disease in those aged 70 and above, while protection from the third dose has proved "excellent."

Vaccine efficacy rose to over 95 percent after the booster shot, and remained excellent for at least two to three months, according to a study.

The omicron variant was found to have little effect on declining vaccine protection, particularly for those who had received three doses.

14.3 15:31 Uusimaa's remaining restrictions expire on Tuesday

As of Wednesday there will be no more coronavirus-related restrictions in effect across the area of the Regional State Administrative Agency (Avi) of Southern Finland.

The regional Avi office has decided not to renew rules that oblige operators and administrators of public premises and spaces to ensure safe distancing of visitors and customers.

As a result, the epidemic-related rules are to expire at the end of the day on Tuesday.

The Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District as well as other districts in Southern Finland have reported that the hospitalisation of Covid patients has further levelled off. Additionally, the number of Covid patients in ICU wards has also decreased. As a result, the districts do not consider an extension of the remaining restrictions is necessary.

However, the Avi said that the coronavirus is not over and continues to spread in the region, adding that it will monitor the situation closely.

The regional agency said that it is prepared to make new decisions if the situation deteriorates again and threatens the abilities of the public health care system to fully function.

However, nationwide rules on hand hygiene and elevated cleaning of public spaces are to remain in effect across the country until the end of June.

This blog post was based on reporting from news agency STT.

14.3 14:41 Finland sees 26k new cases over the weekend

The Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported on Monday that 26,848 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases have been diagnosed in Finland since Friday.

As of Monday, the number of Covid patients receiving hospital care in Finland stood at 859, out of which 42 were in intensive care units.

THL on Monday also reported 64 Covid-related fatalities since Friday.

14.3 14:36 Not time to stop wearing face masks, HUS top doc says

The Finnish institute for health and welfare (THL) has said it will change its recommendations on mask wearing this week. But Eeva Ruotsalainen, Deputy Chief Physician of the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS), disagrees with plans to roll back Covid mitigation measures.

Read more here.

13.3 16:52 Orpo works from home following Covid diagnosis

The leader of the biggest opposition party, National Coalition chair Petteri Orpo, said on Sunday that he has been infected with the coronavirus.

In a tweet, Orpo said he was feeling well and would work from home. Former finance minister Orpo, 52, was on extended sick leave last year following a heart attack.

11.3 14:16 21,000 new cases

A total of 21,000 new Covid cases have been recorded in Finland, according to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.

The number of Covid patients receiving hospital care is 807, down 44 from Wednesday.

The number of patients in intensive care is 36, up by 6 from Wednesday. THL says that the number of new confirmed deaths from Covid is reported at 80.

10.3 12:44 ICU case load remains low

On Thursday the THL reported more than 10,000 new lab-confirmed infections.

It said that 821 patients with Covid are being treated in regular hospital wards, while only 30 are in intensive care units.

The latter number peaked at 64 in mid-January and has remained below 40 since early February despite a rollback of restrictions.

The death toll remained unchanged at 2,573.

As of Wednesday, half of the entire population had received booster jabs, with the rate among the adult population at 61.3 percent. More than three quarters of the whole population have received two doses, while nearly eight out 10 have had at least one.

10.3 11:25 Covid cases up, no changes in policy

At this week's Covid briefing, health officials said that hospitalisations and case numbers were both up, but there is no prospect of changing policy. The epidemic in the south seems to be waning, with case numbers further north continuing to rise. Read more here.

9.3 12:19 Finland's Covid case total breaches 700k

The Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported on Wednesday that 8,910 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases were diagnosed in Finland since Monday, the last time the figures were announced due to technical problems with the registry system.

The agency has said in recent weeks that official daily figures do not accurately reflect the actual number of new cases, as not all people with Covid are being tested.

Wednesday's figures brought Finland's overall case count to 703,052.

Meanwhile, as of Wednesday there were 851 Covid patients receiving care in hospitals around the country.

For previous updates, click here