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Small town on Russian border combats coronavirus spread

Kuhmo has imposed tougher restrictions after 18 people were diagnosed with Covid-19 and 130 exposed to the virus.

Puukoulu Kuhmossa Tuupalan koulu
The Tuupala School is one of the places where people were exposed to the virus. All those exposed have been contacted and none have tested positive so far. Image: Ville-Pekka Ikola

The Kainuu Social and Health Care Joint Authority (Kainuun sote) is enforcing new measures to rein in an upsurge in coronavirus infections in eastern Finland.

On Sunday the authority reported that 14 new coronavirus infections had been confirmed and 130 people exposed in Kuhmo, a town of just over 8,000 people on the Russian border. Before this week, there had only been three confirmed cases in all of the Kainuu region this summer.

By Monday the number of confirmed cases had risen to 16 in Kuhmo, plus one each in the nearby towns of Sotkamo and Kajaani. The number of exposed people was up to 160.

The Kainuu authority on Saturday recommended avoiding close contact with elderly people throughout the province over the next week. All group activities in Kuhmo are cancelled for the next week.

Schools, restaurants and sport facilities restricted

Officials announced further restrictions on Sunday. These include the cancellation of all events organised by the town of Kuhmo through 6 September. Most library, youth and museum activities will be shut down or moved online.

The town hall and all municipal sports facilities will be closed and public-sector employees directed to work remotely if possible.

Secondary education will revert to distance learning, while primary schools will be closed to all outsiders. Children will be asked to wear masks while on school buses.

Restaurants and dining facilities are instructed to limit seating and halt buffet serving.

Municipal authorities ask residents to avoid any non-essential gatherings through 6 September at least.

No positive results from school

"We're considering a broader shift to remote work in the municipalities. Yesterday we urged people not to travel over municipal borders unless it is essential," Kainuun sote Director Maire Ahopelto said on Sunday morning.

There is also a ban on all visits to eldercare facilities in the Kainuu region and to the Kuhmo health centre's hospital ward.

On Friday residents of Kainuu were urged to wear face masks on public transport and in other public places where it is not possible to maintain social distancing. The recommendation covers everyone age 15 and over.

Ahopelto says that the Tuupala School in Kuhmo is one of the places where people were exposed to the virus. All those exposed have been contacted and none have tested positive so far.

"We're checking all of the infection chains and one was at the Tuupala School, where no positive samples have been found," she said.

Exposures at Kajaani restaurant on Friday evening

Ahopelto says those infected are mostly adults who have travelled around Kainuu, unaware that they were carrying the virus. As a result, cases have been diagnosed in the city of Kajaani and elsewhere. She told Yle that the infections came as a result of travel, but declined to be more specific.

Kainuun sote's pandemic manager, Olli-Pekka Koukkari, provided more details later in the afternoon.

"There have been corona infections and exposures in various parts of Kainuu, for instance at the Tuupala primary school in Kuhmo and at a restaurant in Kajaani. One member of a group of people who spent Friday evening there had corona. Most of those who have gotten the infection are from Kuhmo, and those who have fallen ill are primarily young adults. We have reached most of those who have been exposed," Koukkari told Yle.

13.30: Updated with new figures and restrictions.

18.29: Updated with Koukkari comment and more details.

31.8 13:18 Updated with new figures.

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