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Coronavirus 'third wave' coming, professor says

Intensive care coordinator Professor Matti Reinikainen says demand for hospital care could surge.

Terveydenhuolto, Matti Reinikainen
Intensive Care expert Matti Reinikainen believes tough restrictions are needed to combat rising coronavirus infections. Image: Thomas Hagström / YLE

The recent surge in coronavirus cases could lead to a major increase in demand for hospital and intensive care services across the country.

That's according to Professor of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Matti Reinikainen, chair of the group coordinating intensive care for Covid patients nationwide.

"When the number of coronavirus cases rises, a couple of weeks later so too does demand for hospital and intensive care," Reinikainen told Yle.

"It appears that a third wave may be on the way," he said.

A weekly forecast of demand for intensive care units by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (STM) and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) predicted a 90 percent probability that between 12 and 26 new coronavirus patients would be admitted to Finnish ICUs this week.

The actual figure is likely to be at the top end of, or even exceed, that estimate, Reinikainen said.

As of 23 February there were 34 coronavirus patients in intensive care, about half of whom were receiving care in the Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district (HUS).

On Tuesday it emerged that some Covid patients in intensive care were being transferred from the capital to other regions.

Reinikainen: Tougher restrictions needed

Reinikainen's voice adds to growing calls from medical experts for tougher restrictions in order to combat the virus.

While infection clusters among young people have not contributed to a rise in hospitalisations, rising case numbers increase the likelihood that older people will become infected, he said.

"When infections in middle-aged and older people rise, then it's inevitable that demand for hospital care will increase," Reinikainen said.

On Sunday HUS Chief Medical Officer Markku Mäkijärvi called for curbs on bars and restaurants serving alcohol.

"The rapid worsening of the coronavirus situation and the forthcoming three-week winter holiday period necessitate action," he said.

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