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East Savo now has Finland's highest coronavirus infection rate

The situation worsened rapidly over the last three weeks but now appears to be calming down, authorities said.

Sosterin logo kyltissä Savonlinnan keskussairaalalla.
The East Savo healthcare district has overtaken HUS for the most coronavirus cases per capita. Image: Esa Huuhko / Yle

A series of infection chains in Savonlinna have caused the East Savo Hospital District to have Finland's highest coronavirus infection rate.

The infections have occurred mostly among direct contacts of infected individuals, including family members and those quarantined together.

East Savo Hospital District is the smallest in the country, with around 40,000 inhabitants.

The situation in the region has deteriorated rapidly over the last three weeks, but authorities say the region may be turning a corner.

"The situation is calming down. The number of infections in the last week was half that of the previous week, and the infection rate is going down. However, it is still high," said Jaana Luukkonen, chief physician at the East Savo Hospital District.

The rise in cases is linked to an infection cluster in Savonlinna. Last Friday it was confirmed that the virus behind it was a South African variant of the coronavirus.

The South African variant has not been detected elsewhere in Finland.

"It must be a coincidence that the South African variant is here. It's very contagious," she said.

The infection cluster in the town was linked to the Savonlinna Senior Secondary School of Arts and Music, where several positive cases were detected.

"We have tried to communicate more clearly exactly what quarantine and isolation mean. We were a little worried about whether people would actually quarantine," Luukkonen said.

The town's arts school and Savonlinna Lyceum High School switched to distance learning last week after hundreds of students were exposed to the virus.

Recent weeks have also seen record numbers of coronavirus tests carried out at Savonlinna Central Hospital, at a rate of over a thousand a week.

Vaccinations in the region have also progressed rapidly, with residents of the East Savo Hospital District receiving more doses per capita so far than any other region.

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