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Thursday’s papers: Masks during childbirth, pandemic midsummer and massive Turku fire

A new recommendation on the use of masks during childbirth left a lot of pregnant women concerned.

Tulipalo Turun Pansiontiellä.
A massive fire broke out in an industrial building in Turku on Wednesday. Image: Arash Matin / Yle

A new recommendation on the use of face masks during childbirth issued by the Helsinki University Hospital District HUS left many people confused on Wednesday.

Commercial broadcaster MTV Uutiset reported that the guidelines posted by HUS Women’s Hospital initially advised that expectant mothers, accompanying birth partners and doulas use face masks during childbirth. This led to a lot of heated discussions on social media on the practicality of women wearing masks during labour.

MP Saara Hyrkkö, vice chair of the Green party posted an open letter on her website signed by fellow Green MPs Sofia Virta and Iiris Suomela addressing this issue.

Hyrkkö stated that under no circumstances should mothers be pressured to wear a mask, especially if there is the slightest reason to suspect that the use of the mask threatens the well-being of the mother and the delivery.

"Of course, everything necessary must be done to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. However, the recommendations have raised a great deal of concern among pregnant people and it would therefore be important to open up the rationale behind them more transparently," she wrote.

The women's hospital was quick to update the wording in its guidelines. It clarified in a Facebook post that women giving birth are recommended to wear a face mask throughout their hospital stay only if their health allows it. The update added that those coming in to give birth, or have given birth, and have COVID-19 symptoms will always be placed in a single patient room.

Medical staff from the HUS gynaecology and obstetrics unit also clarified that patients are not expected to wear a mask during labour but only in public areas before and after birth during their stay.

Epidemic may last until midsummer

The coronavirus epidemic is not going away anytime soon and people should be prepared for a pandemic midsummer, Asko Järvinen, chief physician of infectious diseases at HUS, told tabloid Ilta-Sanomat.

"Now it is not worth looking just a few days or weeks ahead. This situation will last a long time," Järvinen said.

He added that even though preliminary research data on upcoming vaccines seem promising, we can never know at what point will it be widely available or how efficient and long-lasting its effects will be.

"The population will be exposed for the next six months even in the most optimistic situation," Järvinen said.

The physician added that the only way to fight this is to behave in a responsible manner in order to avoid stricter restrictions.

Massive fire in Turku

The papers carried dramatic photos and videos of a massive building fire near the centre of Turku on Wednesday afternoon. The fire broke out in a large industrial building in Pansiontie, which contains a car wrecking yard, an auto repair store, a tire warehouse, as well as three apartment buildings.

Daily Helsingin Sanomat reported that efforts to extinguish the blaze continued well into Thursday morning. According to rescue services, at least two people were injured in the fire and are currently undergoing treatment.

Residents of an apartment building near the site were evacuated and offered temporary accommodation. Authorities issued a smoke hazard warning and instructed residents of the area to keep their windows closed.

Mika Viljanen, the rescue manager of the Southwest Finland rescue services Department said that about two-thirds of the building perished in the fire.

It was estimated that fire may have originated in the part of the building where the wrecking yard is located. A more detailed investigation into the cause of the fire will begin on Thursday.

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