Elevated numbers of new novel coronavirus infections in Finland may be due to increased levels of testing, according to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, THL.
The agency's director of health security Mika Salminen said that statistics indicated that roughly 1,200 tests were administered last Monday. However by Wednesday that number had climbed to 1,900 and reached around 2,000 by Thursday, indicating a clear rise in tests performed.
Salminen said that to date, authorities in Finland have performed nearly 30,000 tests for the virus. Last week Prime Minister Sanna Marin pledged that Finland would at least double testing capacity.
"We have been urged to test more and to lower the threshold [for testing] so this uncovers more cases. When we look at a graph of the epidemic where cases have been reported on the day samples were taken, then it is still relatively steady," he commented.
Salminen noted however, that Finland is still in the early stages of the epidemic. "We are still quite early [in the outbreak] and it is important to keep avoiding physical contact and to be diligent about hygiene," he cautioned.
Outbreak to peak in May
Current models are projecting that the peak of the outbreak will occur in May. According to Salminen developments over the next few weeks will provide a sharper picture of the situation.
"Our estimates are still quite uncertain and the peak may take even longer than we now believe. We will likely have to wait a few weeks to see some clarity in the situation," the director said.
Salminen said that it currently looks like Finland has managed to slow the spread of the disease. "It seems that the spread of the epidemic has slowed in Finland, especially compared to Sweden. We are moving forward more slowly, as was our intention," he remarked.
Late records added to register
On Saturday morning the THL reported 267 new lab-confirmed infections in Finland, a number that was significantly larger than in previous daily updates. Salminen said that the high count was due to cases retroactively added to the national register of coronavirus infections.
"The majority of infections reported are from previous days and they can date back as far as a week," Salminen explained.
He said some reasons for the later additions were technical. He noted however that the delay in receiving lab results is quite small compared to the the sampling arc in the THL's reporting system.
"A few new labs have come on board and there has been a slight delay in quick and effortless reporting."
He called on people to treat reporting on the daily number of cases with caution and to pay more attention the numbers related to the date the samples were taken, as the latter figures are closer to the day that patients fell ill.
"Sometimes they are rounded off but they should not be taken to mean the entire number [of cases] from the previous day and that there were no new cases. They are the most recently reported cases," he concluded.