Hannu Kiviranta, a research professor at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), spoke at a press conference organised by THL and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in Helsinki on Tuesday, 29 December 2020. (Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva)


AUTHORITIES in Finland are not devising stricter measures to prevent the spread of the new, possibly more transmissible, variants of the coronavirus in Finland, says Hannu Kiviranta, a research professor at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

“The measures in place at the border will be enough as such, provided that people follow the recommendations and instructions,” he stated in a news conference in Helsinki on Tuesday.

Kiviranta told Helsingin Sanomat that the decision is justified for a number of reasons: No new variants are presently rampant in Finland. Results have been received for only about 200 of the sequences studied in the country. The chains of infection linked to the three known cases from the new variants have been broken. The number of infections has not increased during the holidays.

Nor is there evidence of a higher risk of mortality or intensive care admission associated with the variant discovered in the United Kingdom.

He added, however, that authorities could quickly resort to stricter measures if the new variants begin to cause infection clusters also in Finland. The measures would be coordinated by hospital districts and fall within the purview of municipalities, but they would not vary depending on the variant in question.

Liisa-Maria Voipio-Pulkki, the head of strategic affairs at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, pointed out that because there is preliminary evidence of the new mutations being more transmissible, people should adhere to the current instructions very diligently.

“We have a very good reason right now to be particularly careful to mitigate the whole epidemic,” she said. “We have no special tricks that’d see us approach the new viral mutation differently to the one we’ve had since spring.”

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and THL will convene this week to mull over extending the suspension of passenger flights from Great Britain beyond 4 January, according to Taneli Puumalainen, the head of infectious diseases control at THL.

THL on 21 December stated that people should get tested for the virus regardless of whether they exhibit any symptoms if they have returned from Great Britain or South Africa since 7 December.

Passengers arriving from any high-risk country are asked to either observe a 10-day quarantine upon their arrival or get tested for the virus in their country of departure or at Helsinki Airport. They should observe a three-day quarantine while waiting for the test results and take a second test if the results of the first are negative.

If also the second test comes back negative, they can end the self-monitored quarantine.

The instructions and recommendations vary slightly depending on, for example, the planned length of stay in Finland.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT