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Wednesday’s papers: Finland's 2021 Covid peak, a coughing head and corporate espionage

Media outlets explore how the virus would accelerate in Finland without a vaccine.

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Image: Liisa Mäkinen

If the coronavirus infection rate continues at the same pace as it has from July to early December, Finland will hit the peak of the pandemic at the beginning of March, warns public health institute THL, according to daily Helsingin Sanomat.

The calculation produced by the modelling group of the National Institute for Health and Welfare says the country would see infections rise to around 5,000 a day. However, the rolling out of a coronavirus vaccination programme has not been taken into account in the calculations.

Contact restrictions helped Finland bring down coronavirus infection rates in the spring. From July onwards, however, infections began to increase again.

THL's specialist researcher, mathematician Simopekka Vänskä, said it remains to be seen whether the restrictions put in place in December will help turn around the steady growth of infections around. "There are signs of stabilisation, but we do not know yet how strong or permanent it will be," he said.

The number of hospital patients in the country has already grown to the same level as in the spring. However, the proportion of patients in intensive care units is considerably lower than in the spring, possibly due to developments in treatments and the age of those being treated.

The health agency's worst-case scenario projects 10,000 new daily infections with around 3,000 people in hospital should infections continue to accelerate.

As of Tuesday, 249 people were being treated for coronavirus in hospital, 35 of them in intensive care.

Coughing head breakthrough?

Tampere-based daily Aamulehti reports that a new device—an artificial head, programmed to cough—has been developed by scientists to shed more light on the spread of airborne viruses such as coronavirus.

A tank placed underneath the artificial head contains a mucous-like substance of an undisclosed composition. The artificial head then sprays and disperses droplets and virus-carrying mucous particles into the air, just like a human would cough and breathe into the air while doing so.

"This is a completely new kind of particle generator, and it is the first of its kind in the world. It is set to revolutionise the study of coronavirus," says Topi Rönkkö, Assistant Professor of Aerosol Physics at the University of Tampere.

The machine is placed in a controlled measuring chamber, designed to correspond to real-life conditions as closely as possible, to precisely determine how viruses spread in the air.

The aim is to find solutions to prevent the airborne transmission of the virus and reduce the risk of infection.

The research has been conducted in collaboration with VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and the National Institute for Health and Welfare of Finland (THL).

Telework's espionage challenge

Companies in Finland say corporate espionage is on the rise, reports business magazine Talouselämä. Respondents to a Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce survey said corporate spying is now more common than before, with 21 percent of businesses surveyed reporting having been the victim of espionage and spying. That's up from just eight percent three years ago.

The Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce’s Business security expert, Panu Vesterinen, said the rise in reported cases of espionage can be attributed to increased awareness. "Companies are becoming more vigilant. Crimes and attempted crimes are spotted more easily nowadays," said Vesterinen.

The study raises concerns over the safety of remote working as many companies have moved their employees to remote locations since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the survey, 39 percent of responding companies said they should have invested more in securing remote working.

However, some respondents reported they had taken extra safety measures, including providing staff with encrypted laptops, encouraging more frequent password changes and employees only accessing work files through a secure VPN connection.

Vesterinen warns email scams have also been on the increase. "Cyber attacks via e-mails can collect information on corporate networks for years before the security breach is spotted," he said.

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