Finland's rate of new coronavirus infections is clearly falling, according to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).
Speaking at Thursday morning's weekly coronavirus briefing, THL Director of Health Security Mika Salminen said that the health authority recorded just over 2,500 cases last week, which was almost 750 fewer than the previous week.
He further added that a total of 5,700 new cases have been diagnosed over the last two weeks, which amounts to 1,600 fewer than in the previous two week period, or a drop of over 20 percent. The infection rate over the last week now stands at 45 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to 59 the previous week.
This means that Finland's R-number, which is the means by which the virus' ability to spread is rated, is currently at 0.75-0.95. When the R-number is below one, the epidemic is considered to be in decline.
Restrictions 'still necessary'
Salminen said the restrictions introduced to tackle the escalating spread of infections earlier in the spring have had the required effect, and noted that the highest decrease in the number of infections has been observed among young adults.
"Reducing social contacts has been crucial to managing the epidemic," he said.
However, Salminen noted that restrictions are still necessary and if they are lifted too quickly, social contacts will increase and the number of infections could consequently start to pick up again.
Speaking at the same press conference, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health's Strategy Director Liisa-Maria Voipio-Pulkki said that while the reduction in the rate of new infections is good news, the number of new cases is still quite high.
She added that the number of people requiring hospital treatment has also declined over the past two weeks, but forecasts for future demand remain relatively high. Currently there are 180 people being treated in hospital for the virus, 34 of whom are in intensive care.
Vaccine situation 'difficult'
In reply to a media question about Finland's vaccination strategy, THL's Chief Physician Taneli Puumalainen said that the current situation regarding the availability and usability of vaccines is quite difficult.
On Wednesday, THL announced that the AstraZeneca vaccine will only be given to people over 65 years of age, while the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Europe has been postponed due to concerns over blood clotting side effects.
This will likely slow down the pace of vaccination, Puumalainen admitted, adding that more information on the risks associated with the vaccines will be available next week.