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Virus variant fears prompt virologist to call for tougher border measures

Finland is worried about highly infectious coronavirus variants entering the country.

Virologian professori Olli Vapalahti vieraili Ylen Ykkösaamussa.
Virology professor Olli Vapalahti told Yle on Saturday that Finland may still see new measures to control the coronavirus epidemic in the country. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

The majority of new coronavirus variants detected in Finland have been traced to the UK, though scientists said they have also identified mutations from other parts of the world.

Helsinki University virologist Olli Vapalahti told Yle’s Ykkösaamu talk show on Saturday that it was crucial for Finland to stop mutations from crossing the border into the country.

"Stricter testing and control measures at the border are necessary," Vapalahti told Yle.

As of Friday, Finland had traced more than 60 Covid infections to new virus variants.

"There are far too many infections in too many places for restrictions to be loosened...if new variants gain a foothold, we’ll surely need tougher restrictions," he said.

Vapalahti said he expected health officials to gain new tools over the next few weeks for screening variants in positive samples.

"We’re a small step ahead of other countries in screening variants, but maybe a step behind in stopping them from entering the country," he explained.

The virologist also said that while it appeared as if existing Covid vaccines should work against new variants of the virus, nothing was completely certain. It was also unclear when the pandemic would subside, according to Vapalahti.

"Vaccines will play a central role in getting the epidemic under control, but it’s not clear when that will happen...different countries are facing different situations and that includes their response to the virus."

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