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THL asks for airport testing as Finland looks to hold down Covid case numbers

The new British variant of coronavirus has been found in Finland.

näytteenotto covid19 porvoo
Image: Markku Rantala / Yle

Finland is looking to test all travellers arriving into the country in an effort to prevent the spread of the more contagious British mutation of the coronavirus, according to the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

"Then even those who don't actively tell us about their routes, will be directed to have a test," said THL Chief Physician Taneli Puumalainen.

THL said today that testing and mandatory quarantine would be a central part of the plan to stop the spread of the new mutation.

Those who test positive and those exposed to the virus should be given 14-day quarantine orders, rather than the current voluntary quarantine system, according to Puumalainen.

"At this stage when we have a really significant threat, which could worsen the epidemic, then there are grounds to mandate individuals to go into quarantine," said Puumalainen. "So we would not use voluntary quarantine."

Testing drop over Christmas clouds picture

Puumalainen said that although the variant now dominant in Britain is more contagious than others, current information is that it does not cause more serious sickness.

Finland has uncovered 17 cases of the new mutation, with a further 14 cases under investigation. An analysis of more than 600 samples taken from Covid patients in the Helsinki region up to December did not discover the mutated strain at that point.

"Of those, we know that they are corona-positive," said Puumalainen. "As we are talking about close contacts and family members of people who we know have the mutated variant, it is also very probable that at least some of those 14 will also be positive [for the new variant]."

The 17 confirmed cases of infection with the new British variant are located in southern Finland, and their contacts have been traced.

Puumalainen said that the new variant was spreading in Finland mainly through travellers.

Finland announced 223 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, with the total now standing at 37,772 confirmed infections.

Puumalainen said on Thursday that the downward trend in infection numbers had continued for a longer period, but low testing numbers over Christmas continued to cloud the picture a little.

The number of people seeking tests fell dramatically over the holidays, while the percentage of tests that came back positive increased.

"The downward trend has continued for six weeks and we hope that this positive development will continue," said Puumalainen. "There is some uncertainty over reporting during the Christmas holidays, so we will see if this situation continues or whether we will have a new infection spike in the same way that many countries have seen."

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