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HUS director calls for stricter testing guidelines at Helsinki Airport

Figures from the airport's test centre revealed there were some days last week when no passengers were tested.

Koronatestauksen näytteenottopiste avattiin Helsinki-Vantaan lentoasemalla maanantaina.
The coronavirus test centre at Helsinki-Vantaa airport was opened on 3 August. Image: Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva

The Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District’s (HUS’s) Director of Diagnostics Lasse Lehtonen has called on the government to introduce stricter guidelines for passengers arriving into Helsinki Airport to undertake a coronavirus test.

Lehtonen said the new measures should be particularly aimed at those arriving into Finland from so-called "high-risk" countries, as about half of the most recent new infections in the country were found to be due to international travel.

"When individuals are completely free to choose whether to walk quickly to the baggage reclaim and move on, or stay to undergo a coronavirus test, it does not inevitably encourage those coming from high risk areas to go through the process," Lehtonen said. "In my opinion, monitoring should be stepped up."

The airport's coronavirus testing point is underused, Lehtonen said, as he noted that there were some days last week when no one arriving to Helsinki Airport was given a coronavirus test.

"I am not surprised, because this has now been followed for a couple of weeks, and let it now be said in public that the numbers currently being tested at the airport are quite small compared to the number of passengers and the risk posed by passengers from high-risk countries," he said.

HUSLAB's testing capacity at the airport could be as high as 200 tests per day, according to Lehtonen, who said that the daily numbers of tests being carried out currently vary between zero and one hundred. Last week, a total of four hundred passengers were tested.

At the end of July, Lehtonen told Yle that he strongly doubted foreign passengers in particular would volunteer to be tested for Covid-19 at airports, due to concerns they would then need to self-isolate for the duration of their trip.

Therefore, he said those arriving from high-risk countries should have been better screened for testing from the time the test centre began operating at the airport in early August.

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