A medical scientist tests vials of samples for the new coronavirus at the virology lab of the University of Washington in Seattle, the United States, on Friday, 13 March 2020. (John Moore – AFP/Lehtikuva)


THE NUMBER of Covid-19 cases has increased to more than 240 in Finland.

Helsingin Sanomat reported yesterday evening that the number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus crept up by 16 to 243 on Sunday, reminding that the adoption of stricter criteria for testing in a number of hospital districts means that not all cases may have been detected.

Over a half (127) of the 243 confirmed cases in the country have been reported by HUS.

The Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS) and Hospital District of South-west Finland (VSSHP), for example, announced towards the end of last week they will focus testing on a narrower group of people: over 70-year-olds, people with chronic health conditions and health care professionals.

HUS on Saturday stated that it will test long-term inpatients for the virus if they develop respiratory complications the cause of which is unknown and people who have returned recently from Italy or Tyrol, Austria.

Experts at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) had justified the already relatively low number of tests conducted in the country by arguing that it is not worthwhile to test people experiencing only minor symptoms.

HUS, by contrast, said testing was limited due to lack of resources.

“Underlying the change in the criteria for sample collection is that we are trying to direct our limited sample collection capacity at groups with the highest risk of infection and, thereby, cut the chain of infection,” explained Eeva Ruotsalainen, a deputy chief physician for infectious diseases at HUS.

Lasse Lehtonen, the administrative chief physician at HUS, on Sunday viewed that Finland has a capacity to conduct about 500–600 tests a day. “All of the test kits are imported goods whose availability is constantly decreasing around the world,” he added on Twitter.

Their assessment was rejected by Mika Salminen, the head of health security at THL.

“Testing capacity isn’t at a critical level in Finland. If we wanted, we could immediately start testing even a thousand people a day. There are more test [kits] in the country,” he stated to Helsingin Sanomat on Sunday. “If HUS says it has run out of stock, it should contact THL.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT