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THL forecast: 11-15,000 to be hospitalised by coronavirus

The health authority estimated that the epidemic would last four to six months before it's over.

Sairaanhoitaja käsittelee hengityskonetta Meilahden tornisairaalassa,
Nurse works with ICU unit at Meilahti Tower Hospital in Helsinki. Image: Anni Reenpää / Lehtikuva

The Institute for Health and Welfare, THL, has raised its assessment of how severely novel coronavirus will spread across the country, the authority announced in a release issued Wednesday afternoon.

In a new assessment the agency estimated that around 11,300 individuals in Finland will require hospital treatment for Covid-19 infections. Out of that group, around 3,600 will need a spell in an intensive care unit. The findings were reached by experts from THL and the University of Turku.

The updated statistical model projected that during the peak of the outbreak 900 individuals would be in hospital with about 280 in intensive care.

However, another less optimistic model projected that a total of more than 15,500 people would need hospitalisation, with about 5,000 of those also requiring intensive care.

As health officials try to slow the spread of the epidemic, it remains unclear exactly how contagious novel coronavirus is, according to the agency. But statistical models are a way to estimate the impact the outbreak could have.

Turku University epidemiology statistics professor Kari Auranen said that two scenarios could play out in Finland regarding R0-values - or the average number of people to whom infected individuals pass the disease.

The professor said the R0-values seen in Lombardy, Italy was just over three additional infections per infected individual just before health authorities began taking measures to slow the spread of coronavirus.

“We took this into account and reached two scenarios,” Auranen said - R0-values of 1.6 or 1.8.

The larger figure - and more severe scenario - would mean that 15,500 people will require hospital care and around one-third of those - about 5,000 - will need ICU treatment.

In other words, during the peak of the epidemic, just over 900 people could require hospital care at the same time, with 280 needing ICU treatment. Such mathematical models are constantly being updated, according to the agency.

The agency’s chief medical officer, Tuija Leino, said that the statistical forecasting is becoming increasingly accurate as data from Europe arrives.

Four to six months

“The model takes into account the age distribution of patients in intensive care in France,” Leino said in the release.

The agency said that according to current data, the epidemic will last four to six months, but that due to variances in outbreak levels in various locations across Finland it remains unclear how long it will last in the country as a whole.

The model used assumes that an infected individual needing hospitalisation would be admitted to hospital around 10 days after the initial infection. Additionally, each hospital stay was assumed to last about eight days, while patients requiring ICU care would be in hospital eight days and another eight in the ICU.

The model also takes into consideration that some hospitalisation periods would last even longer, according to the agency.

Wednesday's numbers

As of Wednesday 25 March, the THL reported there were 880 confirmed coronavirus cases in the country, with more than 560 of those detected in the Helsinki Hospital District alone.

The figure reflected an overall increase of 88 new diagnoses since the previous day.

THL reported that there were 82 Covid-19 patients receiving care in hospital, with 22 patients in intensive care units. So far, three fatalities have been attributed to the disease.

As of Wednesday, Finland had carried out a total of around 13,000 novel coronavirus tests, according to THL.

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