Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) spoke to the media after the government found an agreement on updating its strategy to manage the coronavirus epidemic in Helsinki on Monday, 6 September 2021. (Antti Aimo-Koivisto – Lehtikuva)

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THE GOVERNMENT of Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) on Monday announced it has decided to update its coronavirus strategy to ensure the re-opening of society.

The government confirmed in a news conference that its objective is to scrap the nationwide restrictions and comprehensive recommendations once a minimum of 80 per cent of over 12-year-olds have been vaccinated twice or had the opportunity to receive both vaccine injections.

It has been estimated that the target for vaccine uptake could be reached in mid-October.

Both Marin and Krista Kiuru (SDP), the Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services, added that the restrictions can be lifted gradually already before the target has been reached.

“The work to tear down the restrictions and comprehensive recommendations will begin immediately,” declared Kiuru.

She pointed, for example, to the easing of restrictions on the event industry and drew attention to the importance of enabling children and young people to return to normal life as soon as possible. A sufficient vaccine uptake, however, remains key for re-opening and keeping open sectors of society, according to Kiuru.

“Significant health risks will going forward affect those who haven’t been vaccinated and those who for one reason or another don’t develop sufficient protection against the disease,” she reminded.

Liisa-Maria Voipio-Pulkki, the director of strategic affairs at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, on Monday admitted that the toolkit put together to monitor the epidemic has become outdated, revealing that the country will consequently do away with its three designations for epidemiological stages: the baseline, acceleration and community transmission stage.

The effort to manage the epidemic will as a result shift toward fighting infections locally and regionally, with more targeted measures than before.

Even if the epidemiological situation worsened in a particular locality, no restrictions would be targeted at low-risk events and activities. Local authorities would be encouraged to issue targeted recommendations for medium-risk events and only resort to carefully selected restrictions on high-risk activities.

The test-and-trace strategy will also be re-thought to target testing and tracing resources in a way that takes into account risk assessments of infection chains and the increase in vaccine uptake.

The updated strategy also includes an emergency mechanism for the eventuality that the epidemiological situation erodes abruptly due to, for example, the emergence of a coronavirus variant that is resistant to vaccines.

“That way we’ll also have tools for situations where the need is bigger,” said Voipio-Pulkki.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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