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Åland sees uptick in coronavirus cases

"We are a closed island community. It makes us fragile," Åland's health director noted.

Huvudingången till Ålands centralsjukhus i Mariehamn
File photo of Åland Central Hospital in Mariehamn. Image: Yle/Samuli Holopainen

The number of coronavirus cases on Åland has risen sharply in recent days, according to local health authorities.

As of Friday, confirmed coronavirus cases on the autonomous island rose to more than 427 infections per 100,000 inhabitants over the past two weeks. Åland has a total of about 30,000 residents.

The new cases were mainly due to two infection clusters but there were other sources of infections, as well, according to Jenette Pajunen, Åland's health director said.

"The virus spread from schools to homes and then onward from families to other groups," she explained.

Pajunen noted that the testing of quarantined individuals had been stepped up, saying that all of the students at one school were tested for coronavirus during a quarantine period.

Authorities in Åland have debated whether to implement travel restrictions to the island several times, but Pajunen said there was no reason to take such measures at this point.

"The way the virus has spread [here] does not give us a reason to restrict travel to Åland," she said.

Pajunen said because of its status as an island, it was particularly vulnerable to outbreaks.

"We are a closed island community. It makes us fragile," she explained.

"We need to be really careful that the virus does not spread uncontrollably," Pajunen said.

However, hospital bed capacity is currently adequate, with just one Covid patient receiving hospital treatment as of Friday.

"Particularly when it comes to at-risk groups and older people, we need to be vigilant," she said.

On the other hand, Åland is somewhat ahead of other regions of Finland in terms of its vaccination rate. About 11.5 percent of the island's population had received at least one vaccine as of Friday.

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