Family Affairs and Social Services Minister Krista Kiuru (SDP) said Thursday afternoon that the government had adopted a three-phase action plan to prevent Covid-19 from spreading in Finland.
Speaking at an update on the epidemic by the Ministry for Social Affairs and Health and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), Kiuru said that stopping the spread of the disease required timely and accurately-targetted measures.
"The question is what the epidemic situation looks like. It must be noted that the number of [positive] cases has risen after the removal of restrictions, although we are still at a baseline level. We have had cross-border cases, but also local infections, that are spreading. The situation varies throughout the country," Kiuru told reporters at a press conference.
"Planned measures will have economic, societal and social consequences that must be identified. This is why timely reaction and the action plan announced today will ensure that the measures introduced this autumn will be well-planned and timely," she added, referring to the three-phase action plan finalised by the government.
Kiuru: Finland in baseline phase
According to Kiuru, the action plan is divided into measures to address a baseline or first phase, followed by an acceleration phase and finally a spreading phase. She said that Finland is currently in the baseline phase, given that the number of infections is low and the number of homegrown cases is also small.
"In the acceleration phase the situation is different, regional infection rates rise but the sources can still be tracked and the need for medical care can still be met without special measures. There will be occasional local and regional infection chains, the proportion of positive samples will be more than one percent of tests and regional infection rates will rise to between 6 and 15 cases per 100,000 people in seven days," the minister explained.
In the third phase of active spread, officials will detect 12--25 cases per 100,000 persons in seven days. "The daily growth in the number of cases will be over 10 percent and the proportion of positive tests will be more than two percent. Less than half of infection sources will be traceable and there will be a strong growth in the need for hospital and intensive care," she added.
Kiuru said that during this phase, government will have to make provisions for additional measures such as the adoption of broader national and regional restrictions and it will also have to prepare to significantly increase hospital capacity.
Hybrid strategy still in place
Speaking at the same press conference, Social Affairs and Health Ministry strategic director Liisa-Maria Voipio-Pulkki stressed that the new 3-step action plan will not replace the ministry’s previous hybrid strategy.
She pointed out that the core of the action plan lies in the characterisation of the three phases of the epidemic. Voipio-Pulkki added that to prevent the spread of the virus, government’s actions should be proactive.
She said that existing measures can be divided into "test, trace and isolate" activities, along with recommendations governing facilities and events and recommendations targeting the entire population.
"If there is the threat of acceleration, precautions can be stepped up and if in spite of this, there is the threat of active spread, we will look at national and regional restrictions and recommendations as essential measures," the ministry official explained.
Voipio-Pulkki said that national measures will be adapted for regional implementation and that the order of implementation could vary in different areas, while regional focal points are also possible.
She added that support for monitoring the situation would come from the ministry’s situation updates and a Covid-19 coordinating group. Regional cooperation will also involve local officials, with regional administrative authorities acting as experts.
"Good communication among authorities is essential," she noted.
Meanwhile THL director Mika Salmi said that the number of coronavirus cases reported worldwide has remained relatively stable. However he said that it was too early to make any predictions about the progress of the pandemic.