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Expert: Coronavirus situation in Finnish armed forces "alarming"

Coronavirus infections in the armed forces rose considerably during February.

Suomen puolustusvoimien alokaskoulutus Santahaminassa
Around two-thirds of coronavirus infections have been among conscripts. Image: Jyrki Lyytikkä / Yle

Coronavirus infections in the Finnish armed forces have risen considerably during February. At the moment, there are just over 70 infected, and at least ten times as many have been exposed to the virus.

"The trend is alarming," said Jaana Kuoppala, an epidemiologist with the military.

The Finnish Defence Forces has over 12,000 employees, and roughly 20,000 people perform military service each year.

At the end of September last year, only fifteen cases had been identified in the Defence Forces, with an overall total of less than 400 cases of coronavirus recorded throughout the pandemic. Around one-third of the infections have been diagnosed among staff, and two-thirds of infections have been among conscripts.

According to Kuoppala, the situation in the military forces has changed due to virus variants in the same way it has in the Uusimaa region. The most infections have been recorded in southern military units and divisions.

The good news, however, is that there is usually only one chain of infection within garrisons, and exposures are most often contained in one cabin that usually houses around ten people.

Military not prioritised in vaccination order

Kuoppala says that the Defence Forces and the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) have discussed getting their staff vaccinated as soon as possible.

However, THL has not agreed to make any special arrangements for the Defence Forces to be prioritised in the vaccination queue. Instead, the military will follow the same vaccination schedule as everyone else.

"The clinical nursing staff is vaccinated first in line, and then those who belong to at-risk groups," Kuoppala says.

According to Kuoppala, vaccinations in the Defence Forces are carried out in garrisons, which eases the vaccination pressure on other healthcare units.

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