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Finland mulls over masks amid Covid case count creep

The head of the Helsinki University hospital district said that Finland is already seeing a second Covid-19 wave.

Cover photo of youths on city street, All Points North podcast
Image: Yle / Arttu Timonen

As the national Covid-19 case count shows signs of climbing, Finnish public health officials announced a targeted approach to possible face mask guidelines at a press conference on Thursday. This week All Points North delves into the background for the proposed mask recommendations and what they could possibly contain.

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Audio: Yle News


Now that large gatherings are back on the agenda and people are returning to work and school after the summer holiday period, officials in Finland appear to be concerned about a possible turn for the worse. An infection rate that has risen from 0.8 to 1.3 in just a few weeks may be the reason that face masks, which had steadily been rejected in the past, may finally be added to Finland’s anti-coronavirus toolkit.

In the wake of THL figures showing an overall 35-percent increase in Covid cases last week, head of the Helsinki University hospital district Juha Tuominen said on Wednesday that in his personal opinion, Finland is experiencing a second wave of the epidemic, which began in early July. He attributed the situation to an increase in travel.

THL and health ministry officials who gathered to brief media representatives on the current status of the epidemic agreed that vacation travel was likely driving the spike. However they adopted a more calming tone, telling reporters that the epidemic was in a latent stage in Finland.

Finland’s face mask debate has been waxing and waning for months, regaining momentum with recent statements by Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) director Mika Salminen that mask use guidelines were in the works.

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health permanent secretary Kirsi Varhila tempered public expectations about a mask recommendation, saying that possible recommendations would likely be implemented only on a local or regional basis and would apply to certain circumstances. Possible guidelines would be announced during the ministry’s next situation update in mid-August.

APN also had time for a bit of old-fashioned romance, with a look at Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s wedding to her long-time partner, Markus Räikkönen.

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This week's show was presented by Denise Wall and Egan Richardson. Our producer was Mark B. Odom and the audio engineer was Mikko Majanen. Sign up for the All Points North newsletter and if you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts, just contact us via WhatsApp on +358 44 421 0909, on our Facebook or Twitter accounts, or at yle.news@yle.fi and allpointsnorth@yle.fi.

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