Liisa-Maria Voipio-Pulkki, the head of strategic affairs at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, provided an update on the epidemiological situation in Finland in Helsinki on Thursday, 18 November 2021. (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)

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THE INCIDENCE of Covid-19 and the consequent strain on hospital resources have continued to increase in Finland, according to experts at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

“There hasn’t been any turn for the better, but the epidemic is continuing to spread,” said Liisa-Maria Voipio-Pulkki, the head of strategic affairs at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

“The difference to previous waves of the epidemic is that the infections are distributed very unevenly among the population.”

The incidence of coronavirus infections stood at 199 per 100,000 inhabitants in the past two weeks, representing an increase of 57 from the previous two-week period. A record-high of 5,900 infections were detected in the week ending on 14 November, with roughly six per cent of all tests coming back positive.

What is encouraging is that people are getting tested more readily than earlier, reducing the likelihood of undetected infections.

The development has put a strain on hospital resources across Finland. A total of 137 inpatients were admitted to special care units and 31 to intensive care units in the week ending on 14 November. Patients with Covid-19 have already been transferred from one hospital to another to safeguard the availability of resources.

“The coming weeks will tell whether this is random variation or we’re talking about an upward trend,” viewed Voipio-Pulkki.

The strain on intensive care, she added, remains manageable despite the relatively long duration of the hospitalisations, as the country has the capacity to treat 40–50 patients. The situation has begun to put a strain also on the inpatient wards of health care centres.

“Also that has been rising relatively strongly,” she said. “It reflects the fact that when an elderly person catches the coronavirus disease, even if it isn’t too serious, their ability to function may deteriorate so much that they can no longer cope in their usual living environment.”

Over a half of hospital districts have defined themselves as community-transmission areas.

The experts also reiterated that the strain on hospital resources stems especially from unvaccinated adults, highlighting that the unvaccinated make up only 14 per cent of 12-year-olds and older but roughly 70 per cent of hospitalised patients.

“Without a vaccination, the risk of needing hospital care is 19 times higher [and] the risk of needing intensive care up to 33 higher,” told Anna Katz, a project manager at THL.

The increase in vaccination coverage has slowed down noticeably in regards to both first and second injections, according to Mia Kontio, a chief specialist at THL. The 80-per-cent target for the coverage among 12-year-olds and older, though, has been achieved in almost all hospital districts in Finland.

“The coverage isn’t good enough to stop the epidemic,” she reminded.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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