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PM Marin: "Govt is not seeking herd immunity"

"We don't even know if infections provide immunity," the Finnish prime minister said.

Hallituksen tiedotustilaisuus koronarajoitusten purkamisesta 4. toukokuuta.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin. Image: Lauri Heikkinen / valtioneuvoston kanslia

In an effort to explain the government's coronavirus crisis strategy, Prime Minister Sanna Marin held a joint press conference alongside experts from the health ministry and the country's health authority THL on Friday morning.

The roughly 45-minute briefing followed requests from opposition parties asking for clarification on the government's strategy.

Marin said even though restrictions that were put in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus are being gradually loosened, the government's main goal in dealing with the epidemic is to prevent the spread of the disease outright, likening the effort to a sports event.

"Nobody wants to come in eighth or ninth place, we all want to win the fight. We want to win and be rid of the virus," she said, adding that the country still needs to be realistic and realise that we are dealing with a global pandemic.

As of Thursday 14 May, Finland's Covid-19 death toll amounted to 287, and a total of just over 6,100 lab-confirmed cases of the disease. However, due to limited testing the actual infection figure is thought to be considerably higher.

Grandchild visit decisions left up to seniors

"We don't want to make life difficult but rather want to prevent people from falling ill and dying. That's the reason behind our recommendations to seniors to avoid physical contact with others. But if some seniors feel like it is more important to meet their grandchildren than protect their own health, then that's up to them, but the government cannot recommend it," Marin said.

She said the country needs to find a balance between safeguarding the public's health and a healthcare system that reduces human suffering as much as possible.

Travel restrictions

She said that because people need to be able to leave the country and be able to return, there is a risk of new cases arising.

On Thursday, Finland loosened rules on international travel slightly, following cross-border restrictions implemented in early April.

Citing mathematical models based on current infection rate figures, Marin said health authorities are preparing for a slight decline in infections over the summer and anticipate a second wave in the autumn.

The PM said that even though 80 percent of the country's Covid-19 cases were being diagnosed in the Helsinki-Uusimaa region, the government does not have plans for regional deviations of restrictions in place, for example opening up restaurants in regions with very low infection rates.

Short on tracking app details

Alongside Marin was Liisa-Maria Voipio-Pulkki the strategic affairs director at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, as well as Taneli Puumalainen, head of the THL's vaccination programme unit.

When asked, Marin and the two experts did not provide specific detail about plans to introduce a mobile-based coronavirus tracing app, when such a programme would roll out or which system would be used.

Earlier this month it was reported that one prospective tracing app would be ready by June , following trials at a Vaasa hospital in western Finland. But at the time there was no word from officials on any possible timetable for its use – or whether they will start using the app at all.

Such mobile device-based tech has been put into use in other countries around the world, and enables authorities to reach out to people who may have been exposed to coronavirus-infected individuals.

However, on Friday, Marin said any tracing app put in place would need to be secure, voluntary and respect data protection rules.

Voipio-Pulkki and Puumalainen said the goal of using such applications would be to track possibly-exposed individuals and then quarantine them.

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