Tuesday. 31.03.2020
El tiempo

Uusimaa, the frontline in Finland's fight against coronavirus epidemic

Almost two out of three cases are diagnosed in the region around Helsinki, which is also the area where most health personnel are infected. The Finnish government is preparing to restrict the movement of people from this area to other parts of the country.

Uusimaa, the frontline in Finland's fight against coronavirus epidemic

In Finland the coronavirus epidemic (koronavirus, in Finnish) has a clear epicenter: Helsinki, the capital city, and its surroundings, that is, the Uusimaa region. This is where the frontline is in Finland's fight against the epidemic.

The Government has recently announced that due to the increase in the number of infections nationwide it is preparing new restrictions to the movement of people within the country. And one of the measures that is now being debated is to isolate Uusimaa from the rest of the Finnish territory.

The Finnish authorities, which unlike other European governments have not even ordered the closure of shops, pubs and restaurants, have in the situation of Uusimaa a good cause for concern. To date, 700 cases of Covid-19 have been diagnosed in Finland, of which 438, that is, 62.5% have been detected in the Helsinki-Uusimaa hospital district (HUS).

Even more. On Monday, HUS warned that the number of coronavirus infections detected in the area "increased markedly" towards the end of the last week.

The figures are as follows: On Friday, 53 new positive cases were found in the capital area; 71 more were diagnosed on Saturday and other 60 cases were reported on Sunday. "In total, 438 coronavirus infections have been identified in HUS," said the regional health authority in a press release.

The only recorded death from coronavirus in Finland has also occurred in the capital's hospital district.

"There are clearly more coronavirus infections in the HUS region than elsewhere in the country. Especially in Uusimaa, it is important that the citizens strictly follow the instructions given by the Finnish government and make every effort to prevent infections," says HUS Chief Medial Officer Markku Mäkijärvi.

More infections among staff

Coronavirus sampling by HUS staff has steadily increased, and new infections have been identified among staff. According to HUS figures, in total there are about 40 infections among staff. Those exposed are identified and placed in a home quarantine facility. The problem, as in the rest of Europe, is that putting health professionals in quarantine also weakens the health system and results in a loss of troops in the fight against the virus.

“Although these measures have an impact on operations, we see them as necessary to break the chain of infection,” says Mäkijärvi.  

The number of workers in isolation and home quarantine varies daily. HUS closely monitors the personnel situation and every day 7-10% of the staff have been away for various reasons.

Patient units not congested

Regarding the treatment of coronavirus patients, HUS says the situation inside the health facilities remains calm. About 30 infected people are treated in the wards and in intensive care units. "Patient care units are not congested," and emergency response units "have been able to operate normally during the weekend," HUS emphasizes.

HUS monitors on a daily basis the supply of protection materials. "Last week, the units had some shortages of protective equipment due to order congestion," admits the Helsinki-Uusimaa hospital district. However, the order congestion was cleared during the last weekend.

HUS is also trying to ensure the availability and proper use of the equipment. “We prevent hoarding and increase communication about the correct use of protective equipment. Attention is paid to the positioning of the protection devices in the units, thus preventing them from being taken out of the hospital for unauthorized use,” explains Mäkijärvi.

Hospitals in the capital area have experienced some problems with the availability of eye shields and visors. The maintenance of the HUS equipment has been tested for cleaning and tests have shown the material is resistant to maintenance cleaning. Mäkijärvi says the reuse of these supplies is necessary in the current situation, but it is also economically and environmentally desirable.

Further restrictions

On Monday, Minister of Finance Katri Kulmuni said to the national broadcasting company (Yle) that there is likely to be more restrictions on people’s mobility and it is also possible that pubs, bars and nightclubs will be closed.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Sanna Marin also said in an interview with Yle that the Government is prepared to restrict people's movement from Uusimaa to other parts of Finland if the situation caused by the Covid-19 worsens.

According to Minister, now "It's important that people do not carry the virus around Finland."