Finland plans to increase its nationwide coronavirus testing capacity from the current rate of 14,000 to 20,000 per day, Minister for Basic Services and Health Krista Kiuru announced at a press conference on Wednesday evening.
In preparation for a potential second wave of the virus, the ministry is also working towards speeding up the testing process, with an objective of tests being performed within one day of being booked, and results provided a further one day later.
Kiuru described Finland's current coronavirus situation as "one of the best in Europe", but conceded that testing capacity has been under strain recently due to a large number of people with mild symptoms applying for tests, and a surge in the testing of children.
"The field has not been able to respond quickly enough to the growing need for testing," Kiuru said, adding that it may take between six and eight weeks to reach the ministry's objectives, if not even longer.
There may also be regional differences in the increasing of testing capacity, Kiuru said, as the coronavirus situation differs significantly in different hospital districts.
Currently patients in the Helsinki metropolitan area may have to wait up to one week to receive test results, and the bottlenecks are having knock-on effects, such as slower tracking and tracing of the origins of infections.
Recruitment of extra staff
Speaking at the press conference, Ministry director Pasi Pohjola said access to tests must be improved, citing the provision of more walk-in, drive-in and mobile testing centres as examples of how this might be achieved.
However, reaching the targets will require the recruitment of additional staff, but this may also prove challenging as the testing and analysis of samples requires trained professionals, according to Mikko Pietilä, Chief Physician of Turku University Central Hospital.
Due to staff shortages, the ministry and hospital districts are hoping to increase cooperation with the private sector.
The Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS) plans to purchase 2,000 tests per day from private providers, as well as increasing its own regional testing capacity to 8,000 tests per day.