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700 quarantined in Jyväskylä following religious event

Nearly half of more than 100 people who attended the late September event have since tested positive for Covid-19.

Koronan hiljentämä Jyväskylän keskusta maaliskuussa 2020 keskellä kirkasta päivää.
March 2020 file photo of nearly empty Jyväskylä city centre as effects of the coronavirus epidemic began to broaden in Finland. Image: Elli Tervo / Yle

Around 700 people in Jyväskylä have been placed in quarantine following a broad coronavirus exposure incident at a private religious gathering of 100 people late last month, city officials have announced.

Everyone who attended the event has since been in contact with health authorities and taken coronavirus tests, with 50 testing positive for the illness.

Jyväskylä Mayor Timo Koivisto, who spoke to Yle following a meeting of the city's coronavirus management team on Monday, said the city would not specify which church or place of worship was involved in the incident.

"Sharing such information would not add value, we would not be able to handle this any better if we announced it. Additionally, if we were to say which event it was, we would practically be saying at the same time who was there," Koivisto explained, noting that if coronavirus-related guidelines had been followed, the exposure incident could have been avoided.

"If our 50-person cap on gatherings and our broadened mask recommendations had been followed, this cluster of infections would not have taken place, at least not on this scale," the mayor said.

However, on Monday afternoon central Finland newspaper Keskisuomalainen reported that the mass exposure incident took place an event organised by the religious group Association du Ministère de Jèsus-Christ pour la Dèlivrance des Nations, which was registered as a religious organisation earlier this year.

The religious group's leading pastor was quoted by the paper saying that three people who had previous coronavirus infections had attended the 27 September event.

Story continues after photo.

Jyväskylän kaupunginjohtaja Timo Koivsto kasvomaskissa.
Jyväskylä Mayor Timo Koivisto Image: Jarkko Riikonen / Yle

'Super-spreader' possible

Human behaviour is the main cause of the spread of coronavirus, according to Johanna Tuukkanen, the City of Jyväskylä's chief physician.

"The virus is among us and until there's a vaccination, it always will be," Tuukkanen said, underscoring the importance of adhering to recommendations regarding hygiene, social distancing and the use of face masks in public places.

Tuukkanen noted that the proportion of infections at the religious event was exceptionally high, nearly 50 percent.

"Corona is very contagious under certain conditions. There has been talk of 'super-spreaders,' and it may be that there was such an individual on this occasion," the physician said.

Tuukkanen said that the anticipated second wave of the epidemic was ongoing. However, the lower number of people requiring hospital treatment for the illness than during the first wave has incorrectly led people to believe that the virus was less prevalent, she said.

"[Those who are being] infected are in a different age group than in the spring. The current infection rates are also not comparable to the spring because many times more tests are being carried out," Tuukkanen explained.

Updated at 16:21 on 12 October 2020 to add that the mass infection incident took place at an event organised by the religious group Association du Ministère de Jèsus-Christ pour la Dèlivrance des Nations.

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