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THL: Epidemic in 'acceleration phase' in Helsinki, Uusimaa

Further restrictions will be considered if Finland's infection rate continues to rise.

Taneli Puumalainen ja Mika Salminen
Mika Salminen, Director of Health Security at the National Institute for Health and Welfare (on right) and the institute's infectious diseases unit chief Taneli Puumalainen at a press briefing in Helsinki on Tuesday. Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

The coronavirus epidemic is in an acceleration phase in the Helsinki University Hospital district (HUS), according to Mika Salminen, Director of Health Security at the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

Salminen and the head of THL's infectious diseases unit, Taneli Puumalainen, held a press briefing on Finland's coronavirus situation on Tuesday, and announced that 149 new coronavirus cases were recorded in the country since the previous day.

Roughly half of those new cases were detected in the HUS district, which includes the country's capital Helsinki and the surrounding region of Uusimaa.

Salminen said the epidemic was currently in an acceleration phase in the district, noting that preventative measures need to be taken and asked members of the public to follow authorities' recommendations.

"We now need to make regionally-based decisions," Salminen said, adding that people in the capital region should be using face masks more than they have been.

"The threshold to use a face mask should be low," he said.

The proportion of younger adults (20-29 years of age) testing positive for Covid-19 is higher than it was in the spring, partly because more coronavirus tests are being carried out. However, a similar trend is being seen in Europe, according to Salminen.

"The illness is still dangerous and you should take it seriously, regardless of your age," he warned.

The All Points North podcast discussed face masks and more last week. You can listen to the full podcast via the embedded player here or via Yle Areena, Spotify, Apple Podcasts or your usual podcast player using the RSS feed.

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Audio: Yle News

Young adults

Puumalainen said it was time to examine situations and events where infection clusters occur. He said going to nightclubs and parties is risky, suggesting that student parties could be arranged remotely.

Nevertheless, Puumalainen said the most important cornerstones in fighting the epidemic will be testing, quarantining and treatment.

He said going forward, restrictions and guidelines are to be handled on a regional basis, but if local measures are not enough, the decision could be made to implement nationwide restrictions.

According to THL, the number of new coronavirus cases in Finland has increased significantly recently. As of this week, Finland has 20 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks, a doubling of incidents over the past few weeks.

Due to this development, THL updated its recommendation on the use of face masks last week.

In regions where the epidemic is in an acceleration phase, the institute recommends the use of face masks not only in places like public transport but also at indoor events and situations where close contact with others cannot be avoided.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is expected on Tuesday to issue restrictions on the shortening opening hours of bars and nightclubs in an effort to curb the spread of the illness.

The ministry is also expected to issue regional restrictions in areas of escalated infection rates.

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