Day by day, contagion by contagion, Finland is approaching the harsh scenario of the epidemic, the one in which the number of cases is constantly increasing and the seriously ill are accumulating in intensive care units.
The reason is that when a patient enters these units it can take two weeks to leave, according to the experts.
That is where the greatest risk for the healthcare system lies in this coronavirus (koronavirus, in Finnish) crisis: overcrowding of medical units may be the prelude to collapse.
And Finland is not an exception. In fact, experts are already issuing their warnings. Veli-Jukka Anttila, specialist in infectious diseases research and treatment at Helsinki-Uusimaa hospital district (HUS) said on Monday that the evolution of the coronavirus patients in Finland is very similar to that of the rest of the world:
"Serious coronavirus patients are in the hospital for about a month," Anttila told Ilta Sanomat.
Number of cases increasing
The latest data published by the National Institute of Health and Welfare (THL, in its Finnish acronym) allow us to draw some conclusions that are starting to be worrying in a country that has taken a long time (too long, according to some local politicians and analysts) to impose effective measures to curb the epidemic.
The first is that the number of cases does not stop growing, despite Finland being a small country in terms of population and being located in one of the corners of Europe, far from the main tourist and commercial routes.
Exactly one week ago, on 23 March, the health authorities reported 700 cases of people who had tested positive for Covid-19. And just one person had died two days before. But seven days later Finland already has 1,313 infected and the number of deaths has risen to 13.
Of those deaths, 10 occurred in the HYKS special responsibility area (Helsinki and surroundings), one in the KYS responsibility area (Kuopio), one in the OYS special responsibility area (Oulu), and one in the TAYS special responsibility area (Tampere region).
In intensive care
But that is not all there is to extract from the figures. The situation becomes more worrisome if the evolution of cases in intensive care is analyzed. According to THL, currently there are 143 patients requiring hospitalization, of whom 49 are in intensive care.
This is actually a 58% increase in the number of coronavirus patients needing intensive care in just two days.
Just 48 hours earlier, on Saturday 28 March, there were only 31 cases of people in intensive care reported by THL. If compared to one day before (Sunday), the number of patients in intensive care rose by 19.5%.
Olemme jälleen päivittäneet #koronavirus -tilannekatsauksen (ma 30.3. klo 14.30).— THL (@THLorg) March 30, 2020
🔸Varmistettuja tartuntoja nyt 1 313
🔸Tartunnoista 52% miehillä, 48% naisilla
Lue lisää ⬇https://t.co/LhRKX8EJdu pic.twitter.com/JPtITwsBBH
Finnish health authorities admit in their last situation reports that the risk of getting infected "has increased throughout Finland" and the country "is preparing for a wider epidemic". Since last weekend, infections can be also found "in every province of Finland", though most of the cases (843 or 64.2%) have been found in the Uusimaa region.
On Friday 27 March, the Finnish Parliament approved the isolation of Uusimaa. Residents of this region must now stay within the province and people from elsewhere in the country cannot enter the capital area. Those movement restrictions will be in force at least until Sunday 19 April.