Finland is now entering uncharted territory, when it comes to its particular Covid-19 epidemic. Not only because the reported cases are already about a hundred a day (105 on Friday), but because of the impossibility of finding out their origin.
Public health authorities admitted on Thursday that the country is suffering this autumn a second wave of infections much more intense than the first, in which the incidence of the virus no longer only worries in the capital city and its surroundings.
For this reason, the government has left in the hands of the regional authorities the power to decide whether they should apply new specific protection measures in their territories, for example an extension in the use of masks.
The response from officials of the Helsinki University Hospital District (HUS) was swift. On Friday, HUS said in a statement that "the metropolitan area has entered an acceleration phase of the epidemic" in which anyone can catch the virus anywhere.
For this reason, HUS "strongly recommends" extending the use of masks to public events and indoor spaces, as suggested by the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).
Virus out of control
The capital region has been the epicenter of the epidemic since last spring, but the main difference now is that the virus is out of control and public authorities are unable to trace the origin of the vast majority of infections. Not even with the help of the much-celebrated Koronavilkku app. In fact, currently the origin of the infection is known in only 16% of new cases, according to HUS.
"Now we are in a different situation with regard to the spread of the coronavirus also in Finland. This means that currently the virus can be contracted from anywhere. Up to half of the participants in private events may have fallen ill," warned Eeva Ruotsalainen, deputy chief physician at HUS.
The highest exposures in Helsinki-Uusimaa region have been in schools, colleges and kindergartens, bars, restaurants and nightclubs, as well as in private events, hobbies and family gatherings. The proportion of infections imported from abroad is clearly decreasing.
“Uusimaa is in an acceleration phase with respect to coronavirus infections. Especially the large municipalities of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and Central Uusimaa. People cross city limits to work, study and hobbies. The situation is worrying and we need measures to control the epidemic,” said Markku Mäkijärvi, chief medical officer at HUS.
HUS recommends the use of masks at public or private events held indoors and recommends "considering" new restrictions on bars and restaurants and gatherings of people.
To date, Finland has reported 9,484 diagnosed cases of Covid-19 and 343 deaths associated with the disease.