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Official: Restrictions likely to tighten in Uusimaa due to rising infections

Infection rates have been rising in the country's most populous region for the past couple of weeks.

Krisi Varhila seisoo ikkunan vieressä toimistossaan.
Permanent Secretary Kirsi Varhila says the Helsinki region's Covid numbers are heading in the wrong direction. Image: Arttu Timonen / Yle

The coronavirus infection rate in Uusimaa has risen for the past couple of weeks, and the region may see increased restrictions to curtail that trend, according to a senior official in the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

Speaking on the Yle TV1 breakfast show on Wednesday morning, the ministry's Permanent Secretary Kirsi Varhila said the situation in Uusimaa was critical due to its large population of 1.7 million residents and that the epidemic was on the verge of transitioning into the more severe "spreading phase" in the region.

Finland uses a three stage classification for the epidemic in different regions. 'Base' is the lowest level, 'acceleration' is the middle stage, and 'spreading' is the most serious phase.

"[The coronavirus epidemic in Uusimaa] has clearly been on the rise for the past couple of weeks. The regional coordination group, which will meet this week, will have to consider new ways to curb the [development]. It is definitely necessary to step up efforts here," Varhila said on Wednesday.

The region, which includes the capital area, is the country's most populous and was also the country's epicentre of the pandemic during the first wave last spring.

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Meanwhile, Varhila said that authorities are looking to continue the country's strict border entry restrictions after current ones in place expire on Monday.

"Compared to the rest of Europe, the epidemic situation in Finland is good, and we want to keep it that way," the ministry's permanent secretary said, adding that work is being done to legally justify on public health grounds for the continuation of further border restrictions.

Varhila said that Finland will make decisions on possible coronavirus vaccination plans at the end of this year or next year.

"National decision-making takes time and that marketing authorisation of vaccines need to be obtained first. Only after that can it be decided to whom and what kind of doses will be distributed," she explained.

Varhila also said it was too early to say how a possible vaccine would affect non-medical guidelines and restrictions, noting that herd immunity would not come immediately.

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