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Friday's papers: Testing strategy, vaccine priority, farm quarantine

Coronavirus is the top story in the papers as they look at test and trace plans and debate who should get jabs first.

Lehmiä ulkona aitauksessa lumisateessa.
Friday's Maaseudun Tulevaisuus looks at the impact of quarantine on livestock farmers. Image: Jaana Polamo / Yle

Local authorities in Pirkanmaa are changing their coronavirus testing strategy, reports Tampere regional paper Aamulehti.

The Pirkanmaa Hospital District will expand testing to try and catch asymptomatic patients with the aim of trying to test everyone identified as having potentially been exposed to the virus by test and trace efforts, the paper writes.

The move is an expansion of a more targeted strategy the region had been using until now, Tampere University Hospital's Jaana Syrjänen told Aamulehti.

"We have been testing those in quarantine if their family members work in social and health care. It may be that we can break the chain [of infection] sooner," she said.

In future, people alerted to a potential coronavirus exposure by THL's Koronavilkku app will be encouraged to take action, Aamulehti writes.

"If you went to a party at the weekend and the app alerts you, you should definitely go for a test," Syrjänen said.

The change is part of an updated strategy from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the paper reports.

HUS boss says Uusimaa should take vaccine priority

Helsinki University Hospital District (HUS) boss Juha Tuominen says at-risk groups in the region should get the coronavirus vaccine before those in other regions, report's Friday's Helsingin Sanomat.

"Vaccines need to be directed here more, because the likelihood of death for at-risk people is higher here than in many other hospital districts," Tuominen said.

HS writes that the HUS district has the highest infection rate of any hospital district in mainland Finland, at 285.5 cases per 100,000 people. The only hospital district with a higher rate is Åland, with 424.4 cases per 100,000.

Chair of the National Advisory Committee on Vaccines (KRAR) Ville Peltola told the paper that the inherent delay between a person becoming infected and displaying coronavirus symptoms meant that using the current regional situation as a criterion for vaccine distribution was flawed.

"On the other hand, the infection situation in the Helsinki metropolitan area has been worse than in other areas for a long time," Peltola said.

Farmers in quarantine

As the coronavirus situation in the capital region sparks debate in Helsingin Sanomat, the paper of rural Finland, Maaseudun Tulevaisuus reports on how farmers handle going into quarantine.

According to MT, the virus can paralyse livestock farms by forcing owners, family members and workers into quarantine.

Usually, there is support available for self-employed farmers in the form of substitute workers who are able to carry out daily duties while the landowner is in isolation.

However, in a situation where a farm is quarantined after a worker or family member has fallen ill with coronavirus, but the owner themselves is not ill, they do not qualify for support, MT reports.

Even if a quarantined farmer is able to arrange for cover, the situation can still be frustrating, the paper writes. Quarantine rules mean that a farmer cannot be under the same roof as the non-quarantined substitute worker, making it almost impossible to pass on instructions in person.

Saarikko speaks out on regional equality

Elsewhere in Maaseudun Tulevaisuus, the paper reports on comments by Centre Party leader Annika Saarikko.

According to the paper, Minister of Science and Culture Saarikko said her party was not ashamed to fight for regional equality.

"Finland needs balanced growth and regional development. The attitude that supports the vitality of companies and encourages them must be extended across the whole country," she told MT.

Saarikko was the guest on this week's All points North podcast, which is interviewing all the party leaders in the run-up to the municipal elections scheduled for April 18.

On the podcast Saarikko defended her party's support for Home Care Allowance – a Kela benefit that critics claim keeps mothers out of the workforce as more than 90 percent of recipients are women.

"I won't accept the label of a conservative woman," said Saarikko. "As I mentioned my own choices have been quite modern, I have split the parental leave with my husband and things like that."

You can listen to the full podcast using the embedded player here or via Yle Areena, Spotify, Apple Podcasts or your usual podcast player using the RSS feed.

Annika Saarikko on the All Points North podcast. Audio: Yle

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