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Analysis: Coronavirus could put 6,000 in hospital

Government has taken steps to slow the spread of novel coronavirus to ensure hospitals are not overburdened.

Hoitaja sairaalan käytävällä.
The analysis paints a dire picture for the Finnish healthcare system. Image: Kalle Purhonen / Yle

An analysis based on modelling the spread of novel coronavirus in Finland suggests the need for aggressive measures to slow the spread of the disease to blunt its impact on the public healthcare system.

On Tuesday the government published an analysis projecting the impact of the spread of the virus on the healthcare system. It concluded that even if the virus doesn't hit hard and just 20 percent of Finnish residents are infected, that would place between 4,300 and 11,000 people in hospital.

If 40 percent contract the disease caused by the virus, Covid-19, that would mean between 8,600 and 22,000 people requiring hospital care over the course of the outbreak.

In the best-case scenario, between 1,100 and 2,700 people would need intensive care, and in the worst case the numbers would rise to between 2,200 and 5,400.

The estimates are based on statistical models using all the information currently available about the virus and its behaviour. Some of that information is hard data and some of it educated guesses or assumptions.

The analysis was developed by university hospitals in Turku and Tampere as well as by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, THL.

Fatalities likely

Based on the model, it is also likely that people in Finland could die. If the country takes a light hit, between 500 and 1,000 of people diagnosed with Covid-19 would die. However if 40 percent of the population fell ill, the number of deaths could rise to more than 2,000.

If government does not act to contain the spread of the virus, hospitals will quickly fill up in the coming weeks. The highest number of hospital admissions is expected in about two months, when as many as 6,000 people could require hospital care. Finnish hospitals can currently accommodate 11,000 people simultaneously.

If the burden on hospitals increases significantly, non-emergency and elective surgical procedures will likely be postponed.

On Monday the government announced a raft of emergency measures aimed at curbing the advance of the disease. They included closing school facilities and shifting students to distance learning.

The key to easing the impact on health services appears to lie in slowing the spread of infections so they happen over a longer period of time.

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