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Wednesday's papers: Corona testing, school concerns, cool summer

Newspapers report on an upswing in commercial coronavirus testing and concerns about schools reopening this week.

Koululaiset ylittävät tietä suojatiellä.
Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Finland's largest circulation daily, Helsingin Sanomat, reports an increase in testing for novel coronavirus antibodies.

A number of commercial healthcare service providers are offering blood tests intended to show whether or not an individual has had and recovered from Covid-19. These tests are now in high demand, writes the paper, as many companies want to make sure that employees are healthy before returning to work when restrictions are further eased.

These test are being offered at least by Mehiläinen, Terveystalo and Aava Medical Centre with laboratory work by Fimlab and Synlab.

The tests are not, however, risk-free, says Helsingin Sanomat because they are not completely reliable proof that an individual has had a case of Covid-19. In addition, the presence of antibodies is no guarantee that the individual is protected from reinfection

Since coronavirus antibodies can be detected only 2-3 weeks after infection, they are not suitable for detecting recent infections.

At present, there are dozens of different coronavirus antibody tests. Some have been marketed with exaggerated claims and the Finnish Medicines Agency Fimea has banned the marketing of at least one home testing kit. Those available in Finland at present are for professional use only.

The CEO of Fimlab, Ari Miettinen stresses that these tests have to be interpreted by a qualified physician.

"We've introduced testing, but the test should be viewed with reservations. These tests are not an immunity or good-health passport," Miettinen told the paper.

Helsingin Sanomat reports that demand for the tests has been high both among companies wanting to test employees and among private individuals who are curious to know if they have had an infection.

Testing requires a referral from a physician.

Aava Medical Centre CEO Raija Tapio says that more people probably think they have been infected than actually have been.

"It's not worthwhile running to get tested right now, especially as restrictions are still in force regardless of what the test results may be," said Tapio.

Keep the bar low

Finland's leading Swedish-langauge daily, Hufvudstadsbladet, looks at schools reopening on Thursday, and advice to keep the academic bar low while focusing on children's well-being.

Hufvudstadsbladet writes that the message is quite clear from the National Agency for Education, the Teacher's Union and the Association of Home and School: teachers should focus on mood rather than lessons.

"It is important for adults and for children to meet and finish the semester together," Linda Felixson , vice president of the Swedish-speaking Teachers' Association FSL told the paper.

Kurt Torsell , director of Swedish-language activities at the National Agency for Education, said he that hopes the teachers will take the time to listen to the students.

"Talk to the students. Ask how they feel. Some may need student care services. There may be special worries among students returning," says Torsell, adding that after spending lots of time only with family members, returning to school will also provide a "breathing hole" through contact with other adults.

According to Micaela Romantschuk , operations manager for the Association of Home and School, well-being should take precedence over academic lessons when children return to classrooms to round off the school year.

"This is an opportunity for teachers to work with phenomena-based learning. Let the children process what is happening in society. We are living through in a historic times," Romantschuk points out.

Torsell also says the bar should not be set too high.

"There are not enough days to have tests in every subject. Teachers will be able to assess how students feel, how distance education worked out, and collect books and computers. It is also important for the teachers to wrap up the school year and to see that they have done their best," Torsell says. "Teachers probably have a sense of which students may need more support and it is to these that resources should be directed this autumn," says Torsell.

Not all pupils will be back in the classroom on Thursday, as some parents have decided to keep their children at home, mainly because of health concerns.

The tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reports a 10-city survey by media outlet MTV3 indicating that the largest number of absences, up to 18 percent of all children, are expected to be seen in the city of Jyväskylä.

In Turku and Kajaani around 10 percent may not show up for school on Thursday.

At the other extreme is Vaasa, where only about 1-2 percent of schoolchildren are likely to stay home.

In other towns and cities surveyed, the figure is around five percent. No estimate was given for the Helsinki region.

Booze sales continue climbing

Finland's state alcohol retailer Alko saw a sharp rise in sales in April, reports the agricultural sector paper Maaseudun Tulevaisuus.

Alko sales last month were up by 23 percent over those registered in April 2019.

The biggest jump was seen in sales of rosé wines, up by 40 percent. Also, sales of red wines shot up by 35 percent and of white wines by 28 percent.

Overall, online orders increased by 110 percent over what was seen one year ago.

The paper attributes the higher April volume to the holiday periods of Easter and May Day, as well as the fact that bars and restaurants remained closed and a near absence of imports by travellers.

Under normal circumstances, bar are restaurant sales account for about 10 percent of alcohol consumption in the country and drink brought home by travellers for about 15 percent.

Chilly summer ahead?

The tabloid Iltalehti carries a Foreca weather service forecast indicating colder than normal temperatures in Finland for the rest of this month.

During the past two years, May brought up to two full weeks of summery temperatures. On May 12 two years ago, the town of Haapavesi in North Ostrobothnia registered a high of 26.6C.

This month, however, temperatures nationwide are expected to remain 4-5 degrees below normal.

Meteorologist Markus Mäntykannas says that by previous years, the unusually mild winter Finland experienced may also mean that we will see a chilly summer. More cold and snow might be seen before summer arrives, as well.

"Since winter this year didn't really get a grip during its best time frame, it's trying to creep back in as late as May," said Mäntykannas.

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