As the number of coronavirus cases grows, Finland is multiplying the problems it has to face in fighting the disease.
On Thursday, the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS) reported one of its doctors -a heart surgeon- from Meilahti Hospital became infected with Covid-19. According to the information released by HUS, the person tested positive after returning from a trip to the Tyrol region (Austria) on Sunday 8 March.
The doctor started to feel the symptoms of the disease on Monday, during the workday. On the same day in the afternoon, Austrian Tyrol was declared an epidemic area by the Finnish National Agency for Health and Wealth (THL).
The doctor was not working anymore on Tuesday or thereafter. However, the damage was already done. According to HUS, he had been in contact with 28 members of the hospital staff. Among them there were 13 other doctors who are now quarantined in their homes.
Exposures mainly target HUS cardiac surgery staff members. In fact, half of HUS adult cardiac surgeons are in home quarantine.
Six patients and their families exposed
In addition to that, six patients and their families have been exposed to the infection, says HUS. Some of them are being treated in the hospital, some have been sent home.
“We focus on securing emergency care. We will have to cancel at least the measures planned for this week and next, ”says Antti Vento, Vice President of the HUS Cardiovascular Center.
HUS is in contact with the University Hospitals of Turku, Tampere and Kuopio in order to secure emergency response.
"We are still in the process of defining the epidemic, and this is why we are working hard to break the infection chain even in this case," says Chief Medical Officer Asko Järvinen.
Travel bans to HUS workers
HUS banned staff missions and missions to epidemic areas last week. On Tuesday this week, the ban was extended to international congresses.
Recreational travel by staff cannot be banned, but as an employer, HUS has advised its staff to avoid all travel to epidemic areas.
Workers returning from epidemic areas will work remotely during the seven days following the end of the trip.
So far, a total of 46 coronavirus infections have been detected in the Helsinki-Uusimaa region. They are all linked to travel to epidemic areas or contacts with other infected people.
HUS admits that tracing all contacts with infected people is becoming increasingly "difficult."