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Thursday's papers: Covid in schools, stormy weather, and algae-fed cows

Morning newspapers report a sharp upswing in coronavirus infections among teens.

Ihmisiä Helsingin rautatientorilla.
Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Coronavirus infections among young people aged 15–19 have increased sharply in the Helsinki region, reports the daily Helsingin Sanomat.

According to figures from the Helsinki University Hospital district (HUS), the number of infections among teens has shot up during the autumn, from 83 in September to 240 in October, with 199 registered already this month. The figure does not include infections diagnosed by private health care services

Across the country, the number of infections in the 10-20 age group has shown an upswing over the past two months, according to Finland's National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). As early as the beginning of October, there were less than a hundred infections per week in this age group nationwide. Recently the number has risen to around two hundred or more per week.

A mask recommendation was issued in the capital region on 29 September for everyone studying or working in secondary schools. The recommendation was extended to all primary school staff last week.

Immigrants at risk

The tabloid Iltalehti reports that members of the immigrant population in the Uusimaa region, including the capital, have made up a disproportionately large percentage of those with confirmed coronavirus infections this autumn.

HUS hospital district infectious diseases chief Asko Järvinen told the paper that that 30-40 percent of positive results in the district have been people from an immigrant background. He said that of the latest 200 infections registered, foreign language speakers accounted for about 30 percent.

Järvinen did point out, however, that this particular figure was not a accurate count and was based on a single sample.

Drawing on official statistics, Iltalehti also calculated, that during September, October and the first half of November 30-40 percent of people who tested positive in the Uusimaa region were born abroad.

Järvinen attributes the high rate to factors such as professions that bring these people into frequent contact with others, cramped living conditions and possibly more frequent travel to former home countries.

Suldaan Said Ahmed, a Helsinki city council member, born in Somalia, agrees. In his view, the phenomenon is a "strong class issue," not a citizenship issue.

"For example, many immigrants work in the care sector which has been hard hit. Many low-paid immigrants also have larger families and live in more cramped conditions than many other Finns," Said Ahmed pointed out.

However, Said Ahmed added that he would like the City of Helsinki to provide more information about the coronavirus in languages other than Finnish and Swedish.

On a positive note, Asko Järvinen says that the statistics also show that immigrants are actively taking advantage of testing, something he said is praiseworthy and hopefully will continue.

Stormy weather

Most papers, including Helsinki's Ilta-Sanomat carry reports on a storm sweeping across the country today bringing dangerously high winds in some areas.

The paper says that as of 6am on Thursday morning, around 10,000 households in southern Finland were without electricity due to downed power lines.

The Finnish Meteorological Institute forecasts that the storm will weaken in the west in the late afternoon, but bit until the evening or night in eastern areas.

The storm is also bringing some heavy local rainfall, and snow in the north. Driving conditions in northern parts of the country may be hazardous.

The state railways VR says that bad weather may cause disruptions to train traffic due to fallen trees or damage to electric tracks.

The Road Traffic Center, for its part, is urging motorists to drive with special caution today and in particular to maintain safe driving distances in traffic.

Cows to the rescue?

Cattle have gained an increasingly poor reputation in recent decades for their impact on the environment, but the Finnish farmers' union daily Maaseudun Tulevaisuus asks whether or not cows may be able to play a role in saving the Baltic Sea.

The paper reports that the Hyria Vocational Institute in Hyvinkää is testing whether or not some strains of the algae which has become a significant problem in the Baltic might be suitable for harvesting as food for milk cows.

A Finnish company, Origin by Ocean, is planning the launch of a biorefinery to process a type of algae called bladderwrack, as well as natural blue-green algae that grows in the Baltic Sea, largely as a result of nutrient pollution.

The algae is used to make biochemical products for the food, cosmetics and chemical industries.

The process leaves behind an organic mass that can be used for biogas production, or perhaps animal feed.

This is where Hyria's cows step into the picture. They are currently just a subplot in the story, but their role may increase if the algae suits their diet. Some international studies have found that adding a certain algae to a cow’s diet also reduces methane emissions from the animals.

Hyria's teaching farm not only focuses on educating students, but also produces milk. A few of the animals have been selected to be fed an algae-based supplement as a trial. The experiment will begin in January, reports Maaseudun Tulevaisuus.

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