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Wednesday's papers: Corona comparisons, contact tracing delays, how heavy is snow?

In a worrying week of coronavirus news, Helsingin Sanomat compares the situation in Uusimaa to other EU capitals.

Markku Tervahauta Sannikan haastattelussa
THL Director General Markku Tervahauta told HS that more restrictions were needed to bring down coronavirus cases in Uusimaa. Image: Yle

As the coronavirus situation in many parts of the country appears to be deteriorating, a story in Wednesday's Helsingin Sanomat said that the southern region of Uusimaa, which includes the capital area, is faring worse than several other major EU cities and their regions.

HS compared new cases in the HUS hospital district that covers Uusimaa to those in Stockholm, Oslo, Copenhagen, Berlin, Île-de-France (the region covering Paris), Madrid and the Italian region of Lombardy between 8 and 14 February.

The paper found that HUS infection rate was 207.4 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, higher than in Oslo, Copenhagen and Berlin. Madrid was the worst-performing region with a case rate of 590.7 per 100,000.

Markku Tervahauta, director general of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), told HS that he was concerned about the figures.

"Those countries are on the way down from a high level [of coronavirus cases], while we are moving upwards, especially in the Helsinki metropolitan area," he said.

Higher case numbers delay contact tracing effort

Uusimaa's pandemic situation is also the subject of a story in Iltalehti.

The tabloid quotes HUS' Administrative Chief Physician Veli-Matti Ulander, who called on local residents to avoid social contact as the rise in cases has slowed the pace of efforts to identify infection clusters.

"Unfortunately, there are delays. At worst, it can take two to four days to trace those exposed to the infection," Ulander said.

Vantaa is seeing the worst delays, with Espoo performing best in the region, Iltalehti reported.

The situation was worsened by a rise in coronavirus infections outside of family or close social circles, Ulander told the paper.

"Such situations exist, for example, on premises where alcohol is consumed and the infected person may not even remember all the people they met. Unfortunately, this leads to gaps in infection tracing," Ulander said.

How much does snow weigh?

Tampere regional Aamulehti asked the big questions as rooftops in parts of Pirkanmaa feel the strain from above-average snowfall this winter.

In short, the paper explains, it's not all about thickness. More important than the depth of the snow is its water content, with powder snow being far less dense than older, melted snow.

"Shovelling powder snow is like handling a scoopful of feathers, while old snow is more like a scoopful of rocks," Aamulehti helpfully notes.

This means that a square metre of fresh powder snow 10 centimetres deep can weigh between five and 10 kilograms, while the same volume of older snow could weigh 40, the paper said.

Not to worry: Structural damage caused by heavy snow loads is very rare in residential buildings, according to Aamulehti. More at risk are buildings with very large roof areas and limited internal structures, like sports halls or warehouses.

Inflatable sports halls are also more at risk, much like the two that were taken down by heavy snow in the capital region in January.

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