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Coronavirus latest: Dissecting the new Covid pass; Caution urged for travellers to Baltic countries; case numbers rising

This article brings you the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic in Finland.

Maskia käyttäviä ja maskittomia asiakkaita kauppakeskus Sellon Prismassa Espoon Leppävaarassa 7. lokakuuta 2020.
Most shops, such as this Prisma in Espoo, still recommend that customers wear face masks. Image: Antti Aimo-Koivisto / Lehtikuva

Check Yle's dashboard for a range of regional, national and international Covid data.

16.10 14:30 How does the new Covid pass work?

Black markets for fraudulent health passes have sprung up in many countries, including Finland. But is it actually possible to fake a Finnish QR-based Covid pass?

Read more here.

15.10 16:05 Parliament approves Covid pass

Finland's Parliament has voted to approve the temporary Covid pass law at a plenary session on Friday afternoon. MPs also approved the continuation of Finland's border entry restrictions during the same session.

The proposal was approved by 105 votes to 33, with the Covid pass expected to enter into force from midnight on Friday after the legislation has been signed into law by President Sauli Niinistö.

Read more on this story here.

14.10 14:15 President Niinistö cancels Estonian bilateral meeting after Covid exposure

The new Estonian President Alar Karis's first visit to Finland was cancelled on Thursday after Finnish President Sauli Niinistö cancelled their bilateral meeting after he was exposed to Covid.

Niinistö put out a statement announcing the cancellation on Thursday.

The exposure occurred on Wednesday when Niinistö travelled to Malmö, southern Sweden, for a forum on the holocaust.

He had breakfast with Latvian President Egils Levits in Malmö, before the Latvian tested positive for Covid.

Niinistö is now in quarantine and is to undergo tests for Covid.

14.10 13:45 Caution urged for travellers to Baltic countries

Autumn holiday travellers should think twice before booking a trip to the Baltics, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) warns. Case numbers have been rising in the area exponentially; the incidence rate in Estonia alone has shot up to 1,200 cases a day. Fully vaccinated people can, however, travel with relative peace of mind while following safety precautions such as good hand hygiene and avoiding crowded places, THL professor Hannu Kiviranta said.

14.10 12:30 Mask recommendation for Vantaa schools lifted

Staff and pupils at schools and daycares in Vantaa will no longer need to follow the mask recommendation from 25 October, the city announced in a press release.

City authorities do however encourage the use of masks for non-vaccinated individuals and in situations where bigger crowds are formed.

Followed the update in guidelines, parents evenings' will be allowed to resume on-site although a hybrid approach is still preferred. The release also highlights that while guardians are now allowed to enter premises to pick up their children, they should not spend any more time than necessary inside daycare institutions.

13.10 18:48 Vaccination of 5-11-year-olds in Finland by end of year at earliest

Covid vaccinations of children between the ages of 5 to 11 could begin in Finland by the end of this year at the earliest, according to vaccine specialist Mika Rämet, from the Vaccine Research Centre at the University of Tampere

Read more here.

13.10 17:42 ICU patients could cause patient backlogs

Hospitals may soon have to decide whether to treat a single Covid patient requiring intensive care or be able to carry out surgeries on three patients suffering from other illnesses who would also need ICU treatment, according to the Chief Medical Officer of the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS), Jari Petäjä.

HUS management is concerned about the prolonged effects that the Covid crisis will have on health care services in coming years.

Read more here.

13.10 15:39 Regional authority imposes mandatory health checks at Rauma port

The Regional State Administrative Agency of Southwest Finland (Avi) has instructed the City of Rauma to organise mandatory health checks of employees at the sites of Rauma Marine Constructions, its subsidiaries and subcontractors.

A similar instruction concerning Turku Shipyard was made on Tuesday.

In a statement, Avi said it made the decision in order to curb the spread of coronavirus infections as about 200 infections have been reported at the Rauma shipyard so far this autumn. The Covid situation in the region Satakunta is currently the worst in the country.

13.10 12:31 Finland's infection rate rising

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL has registered 753 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases on Wednesday.

The latest figures mean that there have been a total of 7,760 infections reported in Finland over the last two weeks, which is nearly 2,000 more cases compared to the previous 14-day period.

The public health authority also reported that there are currently 187 people being treated in hospital for the virus, which is an increase of 40 patients from this day last week.

13.10 11:38 Vaccine committee to discuss third dose option

Finland's National Advisory Committee on Vaccines (KRAR) is meeting on Wednesday to discuss which population groups, if any, should receive a third 'booster' dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

"In September, the ECDC [European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control] warned that the effectiveness of the first two doses could weaken towards the end of this year," Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) tweeted on Wednesday morning.

The potential need for a fourth jab will also be discussed by the committee, according to Yle sources.

Finland currently has about one million doses in stock, which can remain frozen for between six and nine months, depending on the manufacturer. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) further confirmed that health authorities have made jab orders to cover vaccinations up to the year of 2023.

13.10 11:05 Covid pass to be requested in restaurants as early as Saturday

Parliament has approved the updated content of the Communicable Diseases Act that lays the path for the adoption of the EU Covid pass in Finland. Among the changes approved was the raising of the Covid pass age limit, from the government's proposed 12 years and above to 16 years and up.

The move could see the pass requested by restaurants, clubs and other public spaces as early as Saturday.

The final vote to pass the proposal into law is set to take place on Friday afternoon.

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

12.10 16:18 Finland unveils Covid pass draft bill

Finland's Covid vaccination certificate — otherwise known as the Covid passport — was officially unveiled at a press conference hosted by Parliament's Committee on Social Affairs and Health on Tuesday afternoon.

If approved by Parliament in a vote expected later this week, the pass will be available from the OmaKanta healthcare portal and meant to be used as an alternative to coronavirus restrictions. Use of the pass would permit businesses like restaurants or gyms to permit more customers than could be allowed under Covid-related restrictions.

Members of Parliament are scheduled to vote on passing the draft proposal into law this week, most likely on Friday afternoon, meaning the Covid pass could come into use as early as Saturday 16 October.

Read more on this story here.

11.10 19:00 Finnish employers describe hybrid work plans

Employers in Finland are making preparations for the return of employees who have been working remotely for much of the Covid crisis.

The government's telecommuting recommendations are scheduled to end in the middle of October, but employee opinions are divided on whether returning to the workplace is a good idea.

Read more here.

11.10 12: THL: 1,618 new cases over the weekend

Finnish health authorities recorded 1,618 new lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases since Friday, the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported on Monday. THL no longer issues daily case reports on weekends.

The institute also reported four new Covid-related fatalities over the same period, bringing the country's epidemic death toll to 1,100.

Meanwhile, the country's hospitals were treating a total of 180 Covid patients as of Monday, an increase of nine since Friday, with 29 of the total in intensive care units.

Finland has recorded a total of more than 147,000 confirmed Covid cases since the beginning of the epidemic.

The weekend's largest number of new cases was seen in the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District, while the second-largest number of cases was in the hospital district of Central Finland.

11.10 11:17 Child poverty rate grows

The pandemic has led to a noticeable increase in the number of families with children in Finland seeking welfare assistance, according to the Finnish branch of the international NGO Save the Children.

Finland had some 121,000 children living in low-income families in 2019, a figure that specialists say has likely increased during the coronavirus crisis.

More here.

11.10 9:28 Papers: Finland's relatively low infection rate

Finland has had the lowest proportional incidence of positive coronavirus test samples in Europe during the pandemic, reports Helsingin Sanomat, which drew on figures compiled by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and Our World in Data, an open access online publication.

Since spring of 2020, some 2.6 percent of Finnish residents have tested positive for Covid. This is the lowest infection rate among the 45 countries included in the study.

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

9.10 18:26 Some hospitalised anti-vaxxers also refuse drugs

Doctors say some unvaccinated Covid patients are also skeptical of medical therapies to treat the disease.

"From a broader perspective, there's a risk that the misinformation that's spread in relation to coronavirus and Covid vaccines will erode general trust in both medical science and authorities," respiratory specialist Hanna–Riikka Kreivi of HUS told Yle.

The most typical ICU Covid patient is an unvaccinated man between the ages of 40 and 60, according to Stepani Bendel, who heads the intensive care unit at Kuopio University Hospital.

More on this story here.

8.10 9:45 Papers: No backing among MPs for vaccine mandate

Finland's largest circulation daily, Helsingin Sanomat, reports that even with an upswing in infections and the slowing pace of vaccination uptake, the nation's main political parties are not in favour of reimposing restrictions or introducing a vaccination mandate.

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

7.10 16:36 Museum weighs pandemic emotions

Finland's government has announced the launch of a 'Museum of Contemporary Emotions', which seeks to help people reflect on and recover from the Covid pandemic.

"The Museum of Contemporary Emotions is designed to support citizens in recovering from the crisis while recording extraordinary times in an exceptional way," the project's Head of Communications Päivi Tampere stated in a government press release, adding that it aims to "help our society anticipate similar events in the future."

More info and link to the museum here.

7.10 13:25 72.3% percent of 12-and-overs fully inoculated

On Thursday afternoon the Finnish health agency THL said that 72.3 percent of residents aged 12 and over have received two doses of coronavirus vaccine.

Earlier in the day, the institute said that the government's target of 80 percent vaccination of those aged 12 and over could still be reached by the end of October. Just over 84 percent of 12-and-overs have received at least one jab.

However, more than one quarter of the total population (26%) have not yet gotten any vaccine protection.

Only those 12 and over are currently being vaccinated, while some in risk groups are already receiving third shots as boosters.

7.10 13:03 PM denies restrictions lifted too early

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) responded to critics on Thursday, saying that Finland has not been overly hasty in lifting restrictions rolled out to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, the Chief of Staff at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Kirsi Varhila, told Yle that she believes coronavirus restrictions in Finland were lifted too soon.

She presented her view as figures published by public health agency THL showed the number of people being treated in hospitals for the virus had risen from 89 two weeks ago to 112 on Wednesday.

The director of the THL's Department for Health Security, Mika Salminen, voiced the same concern on Thursday.

Full story here.

7.10 12:20 THL: Suspend use of Moderna vaccine for young men, boys

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) has recommended that the Moderna coronavirus vaccine not be administered to males aged 30 and under.

Speaking at the weekly coronavirus briefing on Thursday morning, THL Director of Health Security Mika Salminen said that younger men had a slightly higher risk of developing myocarditis — an inflammation of the heart muscle — from the vaccine.

More details here.

7.10 11:05 Retailers relax Covid guidelines

Finland's retail trade sector is relaxing restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The Finnish Commerce Federation, a nationwide umbrella group for retailers, and the Finnish Grocery Trade association announced on Thursday that the use of the masks in shops should no longer be necessary in areas where the authorities have lifted recommendations for the use of masks in public indoor spaces.

There is more on this story here.

6.10 18:53 Health ministry official says restrictions lifted "too soon"

The Chief of Staff at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Kirsi Varhila, told Yle on Wednesday that she believes coronavirus restrictions in Finland were lifted too soon.

Her comments come as figures published by public health agency THL show the number of people being treated in hospitals for the virus has started to increase from 89 two weeks ago to 112 on Wednesday.

Read more here.

6.10 17:15 Finland mulls use of Moderna vaccine for younger age groups

Finland's use of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine is currently being reviewed, THL's chief physician Hanna Nohynek told Yle, after authorities in both Sweden and Denmark announced on Wednesday that they will suspend its use for younger age groups due to reports of possible side effects.

"Finland's current policy will be reviewed and hopefully it will be announced tomorrow [Thursday]," Nohynek said, adding that reports in Finland of side effects related the Moderna vaccine have been similar to those found in Sweden.

However, incidents are "very rare", she added.

6.10 17:09 HUS: Unvaccinated patients could cost up to €1bn

The Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS) has estimated that treatment costs for unvaccinated Covid-19 patients in the region could reach one billion euros.

Read more on this story.

6.10 13:46 THL: Covid crisis hit women harder

The Covid crisis has impacted young women and part-time female workers especially hard, according to a report by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

The institute's latest research into gender equality revealed that Finland is one of the few EU countries where women's employability suffered more than men's during the pandemic.

Read more on this story here.

6.10 13:33 Eastern Finland sees rise in hospitalisations as restaurant restrictions eased

Emergency rooms in Eastern Finland have noted an uptick in people seeking medical care compared to earlier stages of the coronavirus crisis.

North Karelia's director of first aid services, Kari Törrönen, told Yle that the patient influx started after coronavirus-related restaurant restrictions were lifted.

Read more on this story here.

6.10 13:17 THL: 5 further deaths, number of hospitalisations rising

There have been five further deaths in Finland linked to coronavirus over the past 24 hours, according to the latest official figures published by public health authority THL on Wednesday afternoon. Finland's overall death toll now stands at 1,089.

The authority also reported that there are now 112 people being treated in hospital for the virus, an increase of nine patients since Tuesday.

5.10 18:28 Covid worsened domestic violence victims' situation, study finds

Those who have experienced intimate partner violence found it was more difficult to seek and receive help for those problems during the Covid crisis, according to a recent study.

Read more here.

5.10 17:25 HUS publishing vaccination status of hospitalised Covid patients

Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS) has started publishing the vaccination status of Covid-19 patients who have received hospital treatment for the illness.

The information — presented as the proportion of patients who have had a one, two or no doses of a Covid vaccine — will be updated on a weekly basis on Tuesdays.

Read more here.

5.10 12:31 Record number of flu shots on the way

Finland is to receive a record number of influenza shots this season, but it's unclear if there will be enough for everyone who wants them.

The first doses of influenza vaccine have arrived in Finland and vaccinations for healthcare professionals begin in the next few days. Finland has ordered a total of 2.6 million doses, which health officials hope will be enough for everyone who wants one.

Finland has prepared for growing demand for influenza vaccinations by ordering 500,000 more vaccine doses for this time than last winter, when they ran out in mid-season.

Health officials cited a risk that one may be more susceptible to the coronavirus after having the flu – or vice versa.

More details here.

5.10 9:40 Hand sanitiser under scrutiny

Today's paper review includes news of ICU load as Finland opens up, and also an emeritus professor questioning the utility of widespread use of hand sanitiser.

Read the review here.

For previous updates, click here.

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