The Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) has updated its recommendation on the use of face masks. With this, the use of masks is extended beyond public transport, THL officials said at a press conference on Thursday.
As the epidemic accelerates and enters a new phase in Finland, the use of masks will be recommended not only in public transport, but also in secondary schools, colleges, indoor and outdoor public events where close contact between individuals and groups of people cannot always be avoided.
With the term 'groups of people', THL refers to individuals who live in the same household or who are otherwise in regular or permanent contact with each other.
This new change in THL's criteria - the agency until recently denied the usefulness of masks -, is motivated by the notable increase in infection rates in most of Finland.
Dozens of new domestic Covid-19 clusters and mass exposures have led to further infections in the past two weeks. According to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the virus has spread mainly within families, educational institutions and through activities and public events.
The Finnish health agency has published a map showing the areas most affected by this acceleration. Regional authorities should now, in the view of the situation, issue their own recommendations on the use of masks at the local level.
The mask recommendation applies to hospital districts marked in orange (situation 23.9.2020).
Cases and incidence doubled
But beyond regional evolution, the figures provided by the Government confirm that the total number of cases and the incidence of the virus has doubled at the national level.
According to the latest assessment published on Thursday by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the total number of cases diagnosed in the last two-week period analyzed (7-20 September) was 798, while in the previous one (24 August-6 September ) was 387, less than half.
Similarly, the incidence of new cases was 14.4 per 100,000 inhabitants and in the preceding two-week period it was 7 per 100,000. "This means that the incidence of cases has clearly increased in recent weeks," the Ministry says.
Currently, the estimated basic reproduction number is 1.20-1.25, with a 90% probability.
According to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, now the growing number of cases, the rising incidence, the growing share of positive samples and "the increasing difficulties to trace sources of infection" all foreshadow "an approaching acceleration stage in the epidemic." People under 30 years of age account for about 50% of all cases.
Government urged people "to take responsibility" to prevent spread of the virus by observing the authorities' recommendations to keep a safe distance, practice good hygiene, wear masks, work from home and show prudence when taking part in recreational activities.
A total of 9,288 cases and 343 deaths have been confirmed in Finland by 23 September 2020. It is estimated that about 7,850 people (over 80% of all infections) have recovered from the disease.