People enjoyed the sunny weather in downtown Helsinki on Saturday, 9 May 2020. (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)


SOCIAL ENCOUNTERS in Finland have decreased dramatically as a consequence of the instructions and restrictions issued to slow down the spread of the new coronavirus, finds a survey commissioned by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

THL on Friday revealed that Finns have come into contact with 75 per cent fewer people than usual during the state of emergency.

Adult respondents, the survey found, came into contact with an average of 2.5 people a day during the five-day period between 21 and 25 April. The number of daily encounters was up to 50 per cent lower among the oldest group of respondents – 70–79-year-olds – and almost 15 per cent lower among respondents from Uusimaa.

The respondents reported having an average of 0.78 skin contacts, such as hugs and kisses, a day. Such contacts have decreased most significantly among 70–79-year-olds – by up to 85 per cent – and the least significantly among under 10-year-olds.

The results of the survey were compared to a similar survey conducted in normal circumstances in 2005, revealing that the number of encounters has fallen by 75 per cent.

“The reproduction number of the coronavirus was below one in Finland in April. The drop in encounters yielded in the study explains this observation about the epidemic slowing down well,” commented Kari Auranen, a professor of epidemiological statistics at the University of Turku.

A total of 1,175 people were interviewed for the survey by Taloustutkimus. The respondents were asked to estimate the number and age of people they encountered over the five-day period, do the same for children living in the same household and to specify if any of the encounters had entailed skin contact or sports-related close contact, for instance.

The term encounter was defined as an exchange of at least a couple of words in close contact with another person.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT