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Covid updates 7.9-16.9.2021

16.9 12:00 487 new infections on Thursday

The Finnish health agency THL has reported 487 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.

While the number of weekly Covid-19 infections has been decreasing for the fourth consecutive week, the Finnish institute for Health and Welfare reported that infections among the unvaccinated are still on the rise.

16.9 11:50 THL: Infections rising among unvaccinated

Although overall the number of coronavirus cases are falling, infections continue to increase among the unvaccinated, according to health agency THL.

The majority of positive coronavirus samples have been detected in swabs taken from people aged between 20 and 49 with the likelihood of infection particularly high among those who have not received a coronavirus vaccine, THL explained at Thursday morning's weekly Covid briefing.

Some 64 percent of the Finnish population has now received both doses of a coronavirus vaccine. Plans for a third dose are currently being considered for vulnerable groups such as those who suffer from serious underlying health conditions.

16.9 10:45 Bar and restaurant restrictions to ease from Thursday

Bars and restaurants get some more breathing room across the country from Thursday, following a summer which saw the reintroduction of closing time and capacity restrictions.

Areas in the community transmission phase of the government's three-tier pandemic assessment model will finally see bars and restaurants stay open until midnight with alcohol service allowed until 11 pm.

In regions in the acceleration phase such as Kanta-Häme, Päijät-Häme and North Savo, bars will be able to keep the party going for two hours longer, with alcohol service ending at 1 am and doors shut an hour later.

Baseline-stage areas, will meanwhile see all restrictions lifted.

Read more on this story here.

16.9 09:15 Domestic Covid passports incoming?

Thursday's Helsingin Sanomat reports on a draft government proposal that could require everyone over 12 years of age to show a Covid passport to enter Finland's restaurants, gyms and other indoor establishments.

The government aims to introduce the passes at the beginning of October. However, Parliament would need to vote on the bill before it comes into force, meaning its introduction could be delayed from the start of next month.

Read more on this story and more in our paper review here.

15.9 15:47 THL chief doc: Society cannot be "held hostage" by unvaccinated

There are an estimated 780,000 people over the age 12 in Finland yet to receive even one dose of a Covid vaccine, a situation which health authority THL has warned could escalate into an "epidemic" of the unvaccinated.

The question of how authorities will deal with unvaccinated people when restrictions are lifted remains open.

"It is important to discuss this in society so that we understand what is being done," THL chief physician and vaccinologist Hanna Nohynek told Yle. "There has been talk that vaccinated people cannot be held hostage by unvaccinated people."

Read more on this story here.

15.9 12:18 THL: 522 new cases, 4 new deaths on Wednesday

The Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported 522 new lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases were diagnosed across the country over the past day on Wednesday.

The institute also reported there were four additional Covid-related fatalities over the past day, bringing Finland's epidemic death toll to 1,051.

Some 97 people across Finland were receiving hospital treatment for Covid as of Wednesday, 29 of whom were in intensive care.

14.9 16:55 Opening hours restrictions on bars, restaurants relaxed

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has announced the easing of coronavirus restrictions on bars and restaurants, with opening and drinking hours extended by one hour for hostelries located in regions considered to be in either the acceleration or spreading phases of the pandemic.

From Thursday 16 September onwards, bars and restaurants in these regions will be allowed to remain open from 5am until midnight, and drinks can be served from 7am until 11pm.

14.9 16:52 Government announces updated testing, tracking strategy

Finland's government has approved an updated Covid-19 testing and tracking strategy which is aimed at reducing the volume of tests being carried out as well as improving tracking efforts.

Under the updated strategy, testing will focus on people who have been exposed to the virus as well as unvaccinated symptomatic individuals and those who are vaccinated but at elevated risk from infection.

Read more on this story here.

14.9 15:04 Regulator to review 11,000 vaccine side effects complaints

The Finnish Medicines Agency Fimea is due to examine around 11,000 reports from people who claimed they had adverse effects from Covid vaccines.

In order to get through the complaints more quickly, the agency has doubled the number of staff members that deal with them, according to Fimea's Senior Medical Officer, Maija Kaukonen.

She noted that the reports were claims made by individuals and on their own do not imply a confirmed link between the vaccine and particular side effects.

Out of the thousands of side effect reports processed so far, 2,400 have been considered serious, including general vaccine-caused side effects like injection site pain, fever as well as muscle and joint pain. For example, if an individual has taken a few days of sick leave due to a fever, the harm may have been reported as "serious," according to the agency.

Out of the reports there were also a total of 117 fatalities, but Fimea does not have the official capacity to determine whether the deaths were linked to the vaccine, as that is the job of attending physicians and sometimes forensic medical examiners, according to Kaukonen.

14.9 12:25 Pockets of anti-vaxx sentiment may lead to localised restrictions

It now looks likely that even though Finland's coronavirus vaccination programme has turned out to be a success, there are -- and are likely to continue to be -- pockets of anti-vaccination sentiment where the vaccination rate are well below the national average.

For example, according to THL statistics, there are twenty municipalities in the North Ostrobothnia region where the coronavirus vaccination rate is currently below 70 percent and in some less than 60 per cent.

Read more on this story here.

14.9 12:09 THL: 454 cases on Tuesday

A total of 454 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases were reported on Tuesday, according to the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

14.9 12:02 Ministry to establish safety measures for berry pickers

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment has announced plans to participate in improving operating models for companies that hire foreign berry pickers.

This summer there were several isolated outbreaks of Covid-19 among nearly 300 berry pickers in Finland, most of whom were from Thailand. As the situation worsened, the Southeast Asian country demanded an explanation from Finnish authorities in August about the migrants' living conditions.

Read more here.

14.9 9:24 Paper: Government's new Covid strategy ready to roll

The Helsinki tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reports it has received information that a new coronavirus testing strategy prepared by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health was approved on Monday. The plan is aimed at freeing up testing capacity and shifting more human resources into diagnosing and treating other diseases.

Meanwhile, with a continuing rise in vaccination uptake and falling rates of infection, Helsingin Sanomat looks at whether or not a national vaccination certificate, or "passport" will still be needed in Finland.

Read about these stories and more in Tuesday's newspaper review.

13.9 18:57 Restrictions continue during student exams — also for vaccinated

Although Finland is gradually opening back up, with many of the restrictions imposed to hinder the spread of the coronavirus being lifted, the national Matriculation Examination Board continues to follow a strict set of precautions.

"If there are any symptoms related to the coronavirus, you are not allowed to participate in the exams," says Tiina Tähkä, Secretary General of the Matriculation Examination Board. Exam monitors are also banned from taking part if they are ill or exhibiting even minor symptoms.

Read more here.

13.9 13:04 THL: 100 patients in hospitals, 28 of whom in ICUs

As of Monday, 100 people were receiving hospital treatment for Covid-19 in Finland, according to the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). Out of that group 28 patients were in intensive care units.

Finland's overall Covid death toll stood at 1,047 on Monday, representing an increase of four fatalities over the past 24 hours, according to THL.

The number of new coronavirus infections confirmed over the past day as of Monday was 213, bringing Finland's overall Covid case count to 133,851, THL reported.

12.9 12:19 THL reports nearly 1,000 new cases over weekend

On Sunday the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported 976 new coronavirus infections since Friday. The institute did not release data on Saturday due to a technical problem that has recurred on recent weekends.

The two-day daily average of 488 is about the same or lower than over the past week.

Most of the latest infections, 416, were in the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District, including 186 in the capital itself. Just over 100 were in the southwest, including Turku.

Over the past two weeks, 7,445 infections have been diagnosed at labs around Finland. That is 1,139 fewer than during the previous fortnight, a decline of more than 13 percent.

As of Sunday, some 64 percent of the population aged 12 and over are fully vaccinated, while 83 percent have received at least one jab.

11.9 13:13 THL again reports glitch in daily infection data

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) again experienced a technical problem in reporting the correct number of new coronavirus infections in Finland on Saturday.

Aleksi Yrttiaho, the THL's Director of Information Management, told the Finnish News Agency STT that the correct information would be published on Sunday or Monday.

According to Yrttiaho, the situation is similar to last weekend. The number of new infections reported last Saturday was incorrectly low due to a delay in calculations by the THL system.

Similar glitches occurred on other weekends this past summer, after the institute halted some IT support services on weekends.

On Thursday the THL said that hospitalisation and vaccination rates were more relevant metrics than daily cases at this stage of the pandemic.

As of Friday there were 94 patients in hospital nationwide, 22 of them in intensive care – those numbers largely unchanged over the past month.

The THL said on Saturday afternoon that 63.3 percent of the population aged 12 and over are fully vaccinated, while 82.7 percent have received at least one jab.

The government’s aim is to lift restrictions when at least 80 percent of those aged 12 and over have received two vaccination doses – or have been given the opportunity to take both doses.

10.9 16:15 THL: 490 new cases, 4 further deaths

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL has reported 490 new coronavirus infections on Friday, bringing Finland's total number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic to 132,662.

The health authority also recorded four further deaths linked to the virus over the past 24 hours. Finland's toll now stands at 1,043.

10.9 16:15 Papers: Pandemic costs strain city finances

According to a report in Friday morning's Aamulehti newspaper, the money spent on Covid testing in the city of Tampere this year would have funded two full-service public healthcare centres.

In total, the City of Tampere estimates that the coronavirus epidemic has increased direct costs by 28.1 million euros. Taking into account other effects on the city's economy, the total tab is 62 million euros.

It is estimated that Tampere will incur costs of approximately 11.6 million euros this year due to coronavirus testing alone.

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

9.9 16:15 Nearly 62% vaccination coverage among 12-and-overs

On Thursday afternoon health agency THL said that 61.9 percent of the population aged 12 and over are fully vaccinated.

The government has said that it intends to drop all coronavirus restrictions once this figure hits 80 percent, which it says could take place in October.

Meanwhile 82.5 percent of 12-and-overs have received at least one dose of vaccine.

THL Chief Physician Otto Helve said on Thursday that vaccination and hospitalisation rates are now more important than the daily number of new infections.

As of Wednesday there were 98 patients in hospital, 22 of them in intensive care.

9.9 15:36 New cases declining for 3 weeks, 486 on Thursday

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL reported 486 new Covid-19 infections on Thursday.

The number of new cases has been gradually declining for the past three weeks. Last week, just over 3,800 new cases were diagnosed, about 300 fewer than in the previous week.

9.9 13:45 Vaccine dosage error for 71 people in Kokkola

Some 71 people received an inadequate dose at a Terveystalo vaccination station in Kokkola following a brief switch to a different syringe model. The Terveystalo occupational healthcare customers received a dosage of 0.22 ml instead of the recommended 0.30 ml.

The chief physician at Kokkola's Terveystalo, Arto Kotimaa, said that the error was detected immediately after the incorrect doses were administered (between 10 and 12 August), however, THL only issued guidance on the situation last week.

"We also asked for THL's position on the matter. Based on THL's instructions, we will be offering a new dose of the coronavirus vaccine to ensure that the desired protection is achieved," he said.

According to Kotimaa, Terveystalo has now reached almost everyone who did not receive the full vaccine dose.

"We have offered new vaccination slots and some have already been revaccinated," the chief physician said.

9.9 11:21 THL: Changes to mask recommendation in pipeline

Finland's recommendation on the use of face masks is set to be updated within the next two weeks, according to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL Chief Physician Otto Helve.

Speaking at Thursday morning's weekly coronavirus briefing, Helve said the guideline would be updated in line with increased vaccine coverage and the recent decrease in confirmed cases of the virus.

Finland's infection rate over the past two weeks now stands at 145 per 100,000 people, but Helve pointed out that the infection rate is much higher among unvaccinated people, at 400 per 100,000 over the past 14-day period.

Finland is also on course to have 80 percent of the population aged 12 and over fully vaccinated by the end of October, THL specialist Mia Kontio told Thursday morning's briefing, but she added that this forecast was dependent upon people's willingness to be vaccinated.

9.9 9:30 Covid strategy criticisms continue

Chief physicians from five hospital districts have issued a "harsh" letter in which they call for an improved pandemic strategy from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, according to tabloid Ilta-Sanomat (IS).

In the letter, written on the last day of August, the physicians expressed concern over the amount of resources and effort focused on contact tracing and isolation decisions at the expense of primary healthcare provision services. They further argued that the current coronavirus strategy did not reflect the changed pandemic situation, adding that the government has failed to listen to health expert advice while drafting their Covid strategy.

Read more on this story on Thursday's newspaper round-up.

8.9 16:05 More than 61% of population over 11 fully vaccinated

On Wednesday afternoon, the THL said 61.3 percent of people in Finland aged 12 and over were fully vaccinated, with 82.4 percent having had at least one jab.

Of the entire population, 53.9 percent have received two jabs, while 72.5 percent have had at least one.

This week the national health institute began separately reporting 12-and-over daily vaccination rates. This is the metric that the government plans to use to decide when to drop coronavirus restrictions, aiming for 80 percent full vaccination coverage next month.

8.9 12:00 632 new infections on Wednesday

The Finnish health institute THL reported 632 more Covid-19 infections on Wednesday.

Just under half of the latest cases, 287, were in the Helsinki-Uusimaa district, with 138 of those in the capital. There were 74 in Southwest Finland, including Turku, and 71 in Pirkanmaa, including Tampere.

The number of people in hospital care remains similar to that over recent weeks at just under 100, with 22 in intensive care.

8.9 10:35 No Covid vaccines for kids before spring

Finland could start administering coronavirus vaccines to children under the age of 12 by next spring, according to vaccine specialist Mika Rämet of the Vaccine Research Centre at the University of Tampere.

"In terms of elementary schools, they’ll need to manage without the vaccine during the autumn term. For the spring semester we can contemplate whether it's viable or not to vaccinate under-12s," he told Yle.

Paediatric trials to study the effectiveness and safety of Covid vaccines for children under 12 are currently ongoing in Finland as well as elsewhere.

7.9 12:23 Finland sees 544 new cases on Tuesday

The Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported 544 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases in Finland on Tuesday.

The largest proportion of new cases (216) were reported in the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District.

As of Tuesday 7 September 2021, Finland recorded a total of 131,054 cases of Covid-19 since the beginning of the epidemic.

This blog entry was edited at 17:58 to amend the number of Tuesday's new cases, as the correct figure was 544, not 533 as previously reported.

7.9 10:59 HUS Chief Physician criticises "confusing" Covid strategy

Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District's (HUS) Chief Physician Asko Järvinen has called the government's new Covid hybrid strategy "confusing" during an interview on Yle TV1's breakfast show Ylen aamu.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) announced on Monday that her cabinet had approved a revised strategy, which will allow for the lifting of Covid restrictions when at least 80 percent of the population is fully vaccinated against the virus.

Read more on this story here.

7.9 10:05 Covid hits immigrants harder

A THL study has found that foreigners in Finland suffered much more during the Covid pandemic than the general population. Their mental and physical health, as well as their economic wellbeing, were hit hard. Read our story here.

For previous updates click here.

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