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HUS Physician: No "return to normal" yet as case numbers escalate

Health agency THL reported over 600 coronavirus cases on Tuesday, the highest daily figure since early April.

Nainen katsoo kameraan lääkärintakki yllään. Taustalla vihreä puska.
Deputy Chief Infectious Disease Physician with the Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district (HUS) Eeva Ruotsalainen. Image: Hilma Toivonen / Yle

Eeva Ruotsalainen, Deputy Chief Infectious Disease Physician with the Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district (HUS), told Yle that she is "worried" about the high number of lab-confirmed coronavirus cases reported on Tuesday.

"Now is not the time to return to normal, because the coverage provided by two doses of a vaccine is insufficient," she said.

Health agency THL recorded a total of 612 infections on Tuesday, the highest number of daily cases since 1 April. The agency added that over 4,900 cases have been reported over the past two weeks, which is nearly 2,000 cases more than in the previous 14-day period.

The highest number of new cases reported on Tuesday, 329 positive samples, were diagnosed in the HUS hospital district.

"Currently, the epidemic is spreading in restaurants, bars, large private events and parties as well as festivals and public events," Ruotsalainen said.

A number of hospital districts across Finland, including HUS, moved from the baseline phase of the epidemic to the acceleration phase due to the increased infection rates.

"As a whole, the epidemic situation is moving in a worrying direction throughout Finland," she said, adding that the increase in the number of infections indicates in particular that vaccination coverage is not enough to prevent infections in a population that is very mobile.

Most of the latest infections were diagnosed in people under the age of 30 that are still unvaccinated or have only received one dose of the vaccine.

Ruotsalainen: Covid passport will aid return to normal

Finland still has a national strategy in place for tackling the virus, Ruotsalainen further pointed out, and therefore must be able to respond to the changing epidemic situation by introducing restrictive measures in accordance with that strategy.

She added that people must also take personal responsibility for protecting others as well as themselves.

"The easiest precautions for everyone are still the wearing of masks in public spaces and on public transport, as well as keeping safe distances from others. In addition, it is important for everyone on the vaccination schedule to take two doses of a coronavirus vaccine and help us all return to normal," Ruotsalainen said.

In regions considered to be in the acceleration phase, Ruotsalainen argued that event organisers need to think about more than just the provision of hand disinfectant and the maintaining of safety distances.

“The disease, which is spread by droplets and aerosols, cannot be prevented by hand disinfectant and the cleaning of surface areas alone,” she said, adding that one solution to improving safety at events would be the introduction of a Covid passport.

"A new strategy is needed in which the coronavirus passport plays a significant role. It would be the best way to guarantee health safety at organised events," Ruotsalainen said.

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