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Finland eases corona testing backlogs

Tests are being carried out within one day of booking in most hospital districts, with results available 24 hours later.

Koronatestausvälineitä Kajaanin keskussairaalalla
File photo of a coronavirus testing point in Kajaani Central Hospital. Image: Antti Tauriainen / Yle

The backlog in coronavirus tests has eased across Finland in recent weeks, with testing now available in many locations on the same day that bookings are made or on the next day at the latest.

Even though several hundred samples a day are collected for coronavirus across Finland’s 20 hospital districts, results are now usually ready as early as one or two days after taking the test instead of several days later, as was the case in August.

Testing capacity in many areas was stretched to the limit during that period, when seasonal factors such as the start of the school year led to a spike in the number of people seeking tests.

In the city of Jyväskylä, the backlog in August led to people waiting up to three days for a test and a further three days to receive the results.

Now tests in the city can be carried out either on the same day or the next day at the latest, depending on the time of booking. Results are usually available the day after testing.

However, there remain a few localities in which samples are sent elsewhere for analysis, which can cause an additional delay obtaining results.

This is the case in the Satakunta Hospital District, where the waiting time for results is currently the longest in the country. Most test results are available within three days, but in a few cases it has taken up to a week to get a result, even though tests can usually be carried out within one day of booking an appointment.

"In recent weeks, we have also had to rely heavily on the assistance of THL's laboratory to analyse the samples. However, we are working hard to improve the situation," Tuomas Nieminen, Senior Ward Physician of the Satakunta Hospital District, told Yle.

Priority of testing varies

There are regional variations in how and when samples are analysed, with priority in some hospital districts given to people who are critically ill and need intensive or hospital ward care.

"This has a big impact, for example, on how staff protect themselves and how the patient can be treated," explained Paula Reponen, Chief Administrative Officer of the City of Rovaniemi.

Healthcare personnel are prioritised as the number one group for testing in North Karelia's social and health services, as well as in the Kainuu hospital district and the South Savo Consortium of Social and Health Services.

In the Hospital District of Southern Ostrobothnia, priority is given to healthcare professionals as well as to children who may have been exposed to coronavirus abroad, while teaching and early childhood education staff are also among the first to be tested in the hospital district of Western Ostrobothnia.

In Oulu and Turku, sampling and analysis are currently running so smoothly that there is no need to prioritise certain groups. The situation is the same in the South Karelia social and health care district and in the Pirkanmaa and Central Finland hospital districts, where all samples are currently analysed at approximately the same speed.

"If healthcare workers have a runny nose, the rapid test rules out the possibility of coronavirus quickly and the person being tested can continue to work," Irma Koivula, Chief Physician of Infectious Disorders at Kuopio University Hospital told Yle.

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