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Finnish doctors: A second wave may begin on Swedish border

Health officials in Lapland say they want their Swedish counterparts to share detailed information on infections.

Ruotsista Suomeen tulevaa liikennettä tarkastetaan Tornion raja-asemalla 4. kesäkuuta
A Finnish border guard inspecting incoming Swedish traffic in the cross-border region of the Tornio River Valley between Finland and Sweden. Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva

Doctors in Lapland and West Ostrobothnia have requested that Sweden's Norrbotten region provide detailed information on coronavirus infections in border communities.

Northern Sweden’s coronavirus infection rate has accelerated recently. This week alone, the Norrbotten region recorded 200 new infections.

With cross-border traffic increasing over the past two weeks, Lapland officials said it’s important they have up-to-date information on infection rates near the border, particularly in places like Haparanda, which forms an international twin city with Tornio in Finland.

Markku Broas of Lapland Central Hospital said he expected to receive Swedish figures early next week.

"We want to be able to see how the situation has developed over the past three weeks. It's important to know where the virus is active apart from Gällivare. All movement in these areas should be avoided," Broas told Yle.

Cross border traffic on the western border has been gradually increasing. Midsummer week saw 15 percent more crossings over the previous week. Since 11 June, Swedes with partners or vacation homes in Finland have been able to enter the country, despite restrictions on cross-border movement.

Clusters on western border

Broas said it was already evident that travel to Sweden should be reined in. On Friday chief physicians in western Finland appealed to people to avoid making unnecessary visits to Sweden, such as for shopping, until the situation improved. The doctors said that a handful of new cases stemming from shopping trips across the border had exposed 50 people in Finland to the virus.

Meanwhile Ylitornio health centre’s chief physician, Kari Askonen, told tabloid Ilta-Sanomat on Friday he was certain Finland’s second wave of the pandemic would spread from West Ostrobothnia.

Broas told Yle he agreed with Askonen that there was a danger of clusters growing in that area.

"The important thing now is to give some thought to personal responsibility--even though it’s possible to leave the country. This is a serious disease that carries significant mortality rates," he said.

Infection rates in Lapland have tapered off since earlier this year, with the hospital district not reporting any new local cases since April.

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