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Helsinki ponders hotel rooms for coronavirus quarantine facilities

The city is considering hotel rooms for people who have been exposed to novel coronavirus but live alone.

Ambulanssien ajoluiska, jossa otetaan myös näytteitä autolla saapuvista korona-epäillyistä.
Families can drive into the ambulance bay at Helsinki’s new Children’s Hospital and have samples taken for testing taken without even getting out of their cars. Image: Petteri Juuti / Yle

Helsinki city officials are considering hotel accommodation for persons who have been exposed to novel coronavirus. So far, health authorities have urged persons who may have been exposed to infection to quarantine themselves at home.

But now the city is pondering additional steps to protect people living with infected patients and to prevent the spread of the disease.

"Of course the starting point would be to recommend a home quarantine if needed. We are also prepared to organise other facilities in the case of an individual who lives alone. One option for example is a patient hotel or renting a hotel room," said Timo Lukkarinen, medical chief of Helsinki health centres.

Drive-in sampling available

Officials have also been taking steps to ensure that gathering samples can be quick and easy. As a result, members of the public have samples taken in mere minutes for coronavirus testing.

For example, a family can drive into the ambulance bay at Helsinki’s new Children’s Hospital and have samples taken without even getting out of the car.

"This makes family business easier because they can just drive in with their own car and quickly give a sample. This will take just a few minutes and they can then continue on their way home. If a family doesn’t own a car, it’s possible to organise an ambulance that can come to pick up samples for testing," said Children’s Hospital ward physician Mikael Kuitunen.

So far Finland has confirmed seven cases of novel coronavirus, six of them in the Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district (HUS).

Flood of calls to hotline

On Monday, a coronavirus hotline began to serve the public and officials reported hundreds of calls the same day. According to medical chief of staff Lukkarinen, about a dozen more people have been assigned to staff the service.

Persons with questions about the disease can reach the hotline at 09 3101 0024. A national hotline is also to be established soon.

Meanwhile, the Finnish Real Estate Federation is also calling for housing companies, which are responsible for managing properties in owner-occupied flats and semi-detached homes, to ensure that they are prepared to deal with coronavirus.

The organisation said that housing company boards should review with property management firms how they can prevent the spread of the disease in the event of a possible pandemic.

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