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THL director: Number of corona cases in Finland may be 20-30 times higher than official count

The only people being tested in Finland now are the seriously ill and those in risk groups, as well as social and healthcare workers.

 THL:n pääjohtaja Markku Tervahauta THL:n infotilaisuudessa koronaviruksesta.
THL Director Markku Tervahauta Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva

The number of people with coronavirus infections in Finland may be 20-30 times higher than has so far been confirmed, according to the Director-General of the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) Markku Tervahauta. He was interviewed on Yle Radio 1’s current affairs programme Ykkösaamu on Monday morning.

As of Monday morning, 241 cases of the Covid-19 disease caused by the new coronavirus had been confirmed in Finland. However not all suspected cases are being tested any longer, so the actual number of infections is likely to be much higher.

The only people being tested in Finland now are the seriously ill and those in risk groups, as well as social and healthcare workers.

“Testing is focused on the kinds of symptoms and individuals where it is important to know whether it is in fact corona,” Tervahauta said.

Projected infection numbers have been modelled through computer simulations based on data from other countries. Tervahauta said that these estimates vary greatly due to national variations in how infections are being tracked.

Tervahauta said it is also becoming difficult to trace possible chains of exposure. Most cases confirmed in Finland have still been linked to travel.

“It’s likely that there will be confirmed cases where these chains can no longer be identified. At that point there will be far more infection within society than has been confirmed by testing,” Tervahauta said.

Hospitals bracing for corona wave

Tervahauta said there will be efforts to expand testing based on hospital capacities. At the moment, hospitals are preparing to treat a rapidly growing number of confirmed patients.

The Helsinki-Uusimaa hospital district (HUS) has begun setting up specified health clinics for coronavirus. In Espoo, corona patients are being concentrated at the Samaria Health Centre near the city centre, while in Vantaa they are being treated at the Martinlaakso Health Centre. Helsinki is establishing its corona centre at the Laakso Health Centre.

Non-urgent treatment is being postponed to free up staff resources for serious cases.

“Hospitals are preparing to handle serious cases by cancelling non-urgent treatment. Normal procedures must be wound down soon because many serious cases may arrive rapidly,” Tervahauta said.

Tervahauta added that most people in Finland will experience the coronavirus as a mild respiratory tract infection. Those with mild symptoms should stay home with the same treatment as with influenza.

“You should seek treatment if you have more serious symptoms such as exhaustion or breathing difficulty,” Tervahauta said.

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