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Lasse Lehtonen, the director of diagnostics at the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS), has questioned the Finnish government’s rush to ease restrictions to slow down the spread of the new coronavirus. (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)


LASSE LEHTONEN, the director of diagnostic services at the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS), has sent a stern warning about the coronavirus situation in Finland.

Lehtonen on Sunday wrote on Puheenvuoro that the easing of restrictions in different sectors of the society has resulted in an increase in the number of coronavirus infections in practically everywhere.

HUS, he highlighted, reported its lowest number of new coronavirus infections in a single week between 6 and 12 July, with no more than six of the 8,998 samples tested turning out positive. Although the number of samples tested remained close to 9,000, the weekly number of positive tests rose first to 14 and then to 20.

“There is a threat that the number of infections are starting to increase after the great situation early this summer,” he said.

“Fighting the coronavirus epidemic is an endurance sport where governments must exercise patience and citizens must have the determination to follow a lifestyle that prevents infections until a vaccine against this dangerous communicable disease becomes available.”

Lehtonen reminded that preventing the coronavirus from spreading at the population level is fundamentally fairly straightforward, as three preventive measures – practising good hand hygiene, observing social distancing and using face masks – would suffice to prevent most infections.

“When these preventive measures are combined with the testing of potential coronavirus patients, successful tracing of exposed people and sufficient quarantines of people who pose a risk of transmitting the virus, a second coronavirus wave is completely preventable. China, Singapore and South Korea are examples of countries that have successfully smothered the re-emergence of infections.”

The Finnish government rushed needlessly to lift the restrictions, according to Lehtonen. The European Commission, he reminded, has recommended that governments should exercise patience in easing the restrictions and monitor the effects of the decisions before proceeding.

“I admit that I was slightly stunned when the prime minister seemed almost jubilant about getting rid of the restrictions in an interview in June,” he wrote.

Lehtonen viewed that the decision to lift restrictions on large public events is daring especially because it coincides with the return of employees to the workplace and pupils to the classroom.

“The poor timing of easing restrictions helps the coronavirus to spread in the population, as there are still people in the population who carry the virus. We actually won’t have too many formal restrictions to prevent the coronavirus from spreading in the population come autumn,” he pointed out.

Although the restrictions are being relaxed, he added, people should continue to make an effort to protect themselves against the virus.

“Using face masks in jam-packed public transport is certainly allowed,” he said.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Source: Uusi Suomi