There has been a significant increase in the number of young people testing positive for coronavirus over the past two weeks, especially in the 18 to 21-year-old age group, according to the latest figures provided by health agency THL and the Ministry of Health.
THL has recorded a total of 2,895 coronavirus infections across all age groups over the last seven days, which is almost 30 percent more than in the previous week. This is the fifth consecutive week in which the number of infections has increased, and the daily totals are similar to the figures reported during February, just before Finland's government announced a partial shutdown.
Finland's infection rate over the past two weeks now stands at 93 infections per 100,000 people, a significant rise from the figure of 54 over the previous 14-day period.
As elsewhere in Europe, infections are spreading rapidly among younger age groups, THL noted, as more than half of last week's infections were diagnosed in people aged between 15 and 29. Within this category, the largest number of infections were reported in the 18 to 21-year-old demographic.
Last week, 116,000 people in Finland took a coronavirus test, with 2.5 percent of the samples testing positive. This is about one percentage point more than the rate at the end of June.
The increase in infections has also led to six regions across Finland moving from the baseline phase of the pandemic to the acceleration phase, including the hospital districts of Kanta-Häme, Satakunta, North Karelia, North Savo and Central Finland, and in the HUS area of Western Uusimaa.
Hospitalisations remain relatively low
However, the rapid rise in case numbers has not led to a significant increase in the number of people requiring hospital treatment, with THL noting that hospitalisations have remained relatively low.
The majority of recent hospitalisations are among young and unvaccinated people now, the agency said.
On Thursday, there were 57 people being treated in hospitals across Finland, six of whom were in intensive care units, but THL predicted that this figure is likely to rise.
The agency also noted that Finland's vaccination programme is progressing steadily, with 65 percent of the population having received at least one dose of a vaccine by Thursday morning, and nearly one third having received both doses. The effectiveness of vaccination is evident, THL added, as very few elderly people have been infected with the virus since the spring.
Health authorities further emphasised the importance of keeping to vaccination appointments as well as the continued use of masks, maintaining a safe distance from others and other protective measures.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also recommends avoiding all travel to Brazil, South Africa, India and Russia, with THL adding that caution should be exercised elsewhere, including in Europe.