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Health authorities suspect falsified corona certificates behind shipyard outbreak

Nearly 800 workers at a shipyard in Rauma were ordered to quarantine after an infection outbreak.

Rauman telakka aidan takaa helmikuussa 2021.
Manufacturing orders at Rauma shipyard could be delayed because of a halt to production caused by the coronavirus outbreak. Image: Lassi Lähteenmäki / Yle

Health authorities in the Satakunta region suspect falsified coronavirus test certificates may have led to a major coronavirus outbreak at a shipyard in the city of Rauma.

Speaking on Yle’s Ykkösaamu morning radio show, the region’s infectious diseases physician Raija Uusitalo-Seppälä said there may have been shortcomings in the screening of negative coronavirus test results at the shipyard, especially in the case of foreign workers.

"In principle, the shipyard has had a requirement in place for testing, but there is a wide range of workers within the network. It is probably the case that names have been put on paper in situations where no tests have actually taken place," Uusitalo-Seppälä said. "At least that's how it looks to the eye of an outsider."

She also emphasised that many people at the shipyard have acted sincerely and in line with regulations.

Jyrki Heinimaa, CEO of Rauma Marine Constructions (RMC), said that the company takes "extremely seriously" allegations that various agents within the firm’s network may have forged their employees' coronavirus test certificates.

"We have no information about such activities. However, this is a serious accusation, and we are thoroughly investigating it," Heinimaa said.

Gradual return to work

Production work at the shipyard was initially interrupted last week after nearly 240 coronavirus infections were diagnosed among the roughly 1,000 workers.

The area has since been disinfected and production operations are gradually being restored. The first seven employees were able to return to work on Thursday morning - as they had not been at the shipyard when the infections spread.

During the interruption, RMC has reviewed its own operations as well as those of the companies within its network.

Heinimaa said that although the yard has been operating according to official instructions, this has not been sufficient.

"We are now tightening our own guidelines and monitoring compliance with them together with our network. More attention is being paid to the flow of information so that everyone working at the shipyard is aware of the instructions and their significance outside working hours," he said.

Heinimaa added that the company's internal communication is multilingual, but it will next need to assess whether the range of languages needs to be further expanded to ensure that the instructions are understood by all workers.

Rauma's chief physician Hannu Nordqvist has previously noted that around 800 of the the shipyard's 1,000 workers were non-Finnish speakers, and that efforts to minimise the spread of coronavirus have been hampered by language barriers, cultural differences, and employees' living conditions.

The company also plans to introduce new measures aimed at tackling exposures and infections, such as the staggering of break and meal times much more than previously.

The shipyard has had a mask mandate in place, but this will be more closely monitored in the future, and the company will continue to arrange coronavirus tests for workers before they enter the site, Heinimaa added.

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