Thursday. 09.04.2020
El tiempo

A tough day in Finland: 88 new infections, 2 dead and 5 more in intensive care

Infections rise to 880 and death reappears, as authorities blame each other for failing to monitor thousands of tourists returning from abroad who have been spreading the disease at home.

Stock photo of a woman wearing a mask in a train. Credit: Anna Shvets.
Stock photo of a woman wearing a mask in a train. Credit: Anna Shvets.
A tough day in Finland: 88 new infections, 2 dead and 5 more in intensive care

Wednesday has been a tough day for Finland in its fight against the coronavirus (koronavirus, in Finnish). And it has been hard on all fronts: in the health sector, with an increase in diagnosed cases and deaths, in politics, with new restrictions applied within the frame of a state of emergency and in the administration, with several agencies blaming each other for the possible spread of the virus.

Finland is waking up to reality after dreaming for weeks that it would not be seriously affected by the epidemic that is now hitting the southern European countries especially hard.

Yes, it is true that this is not yet like Italy or Spain, and hopefully it never will be, but on Wednesday morning Finns ate breakfast with the bad news that there have been two more deaths in their country. One of them occurred in Helsinki and the other one in Hämeenlinna Central Hospital. With them, the number of deaths recorded since the pandemic was declared has risen to three.

880 infections reported

But that was not all. In the afternoon, at around 15:00, the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL, in its Finnish acronym) issued its daily report on the evolution of the epidemic nationwide. According to the figures provided by this agency in the release, 88 new Covid-19 infections were diagnosed in the last 24 hours. With them, the total number of detected cases amounts to 880.

Those figures are based on the laboratory-verified positive tests and have been collected manually by THL from the Finnish hospital districts. But probably they do not reflect the reality of the epidemic, since in Finland only people with severe respiratory symptoms are tested. The managers of THL admitted recently that the actual number of people infected may be 20 to 30 times higher.

The number of cases reported to the Register of Communicable Diseases is 823. Of the cases reported to the registry, 61% are men and 39% women say THL, who in relation to deceased people refuses to reveal important information to measure the severity of the epidemic such as age and gender of the deceased.

The excuse, once again, in a country with a population of 5.52 million people is to keep the patients privacy.

82 hospitalized, 22 in intensive care

The number of people in hospitals also increased during the last 24 hours. According to THL, there are currently 82 patients requiring hospitalization and 22 of them are in intensive care. This is 9 more people hospitalized and 5 more people in intensive care than in the previous day (Tuesday).

There is no official account on the age of those in intensive care, although some Finnish media have leaked that the authorities are surprised at the number of people of working age who are requiring intensive treatment. According to the health agency, "several people have already recovered," but again the numbers have not been not disclosed.

During the day, some agencies have been blaming each other for the increase in an epidemic that could get out of control even though the politicians have just announced new restrictions on the movement of people, such as the lockdown of the border of the Uusimaa region (Helsinki and its surroundings) and the closure from next Saturday of all the pubs and restaurants. Oddly enough, in the midst of today's European disaster, bars in Finland are still open to the public.

Finnish media raised alarm

The Finnish media have also raised the alarm this Wednesday after learning that THL did not take into account in the latest forecasts they presented to the Government the fact that 200,000 Finns would be returning from abroad these days and could spread the disease at home.

Inexplicably, all those who have returned so far have been able to go home freely and on their own, most of them using public trains, buses and metro, without anyone monitoring their condition and with the simple recommendation that they stay home.

THL blames Finavia, the main airport operator. And Finavia returns the accusation and says that it is THL's fault because they did not give any concrete instructions about the issue.

Overwhelmed by this situation in a country where the ability to improvise solutions is scarce, the Finnish Government Communications Department issued a press release on Wednesday afternoon announcing that "over the next few days" healthcare professionals will be sent to the Helsinki airport to meet the returning Finnish tourists.