A sign pointing toward a sample collection site at Meilahti Hospital in Helsinki on 10 September 2021. (Markku Ulander – Lehtikuva)


THE RESULTS of Covid-19 testing indicate that the omicron variant is spreading rapidly among the population, estimates Jari Petäjä, the acting chief medical officer at the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS).

Petäjä on Saturday told Helsingin Sanomat that positive tests accounted for more than 21 per cent of the samples taken at Huslab on Christmas Eve.

“This is a tremendously high share, given that the corresponding figure was about 10 per cent only three days ago and six per cent one week before that. The share of positive tests sends the serious message that omicron is spreading rapidly,” he said.

The situation, he viewed, is developing as expected: “The number of coronavirus patients has started to rise slowly day by day, as was expected.”

Huslab, the leading laboratory services provider in Finland, analyses over 10,000 nasopharyngeal swab samples on an ordinary weekday. Petäjä estimated that the threshold for getting tested may have been slightly higher than usual on Christmas Eve.

Presently 40–50 of the people who contact the coronavirus hotlines in the hospital district daily are diagnosed with an infection. While most of them are well enough to be sent home, some are admitted to inpatient wards. On Christmas Day, 22 of the 68 patients hospitalised with the infection were in intensive care.

“The corresponding figure last week was 16–18. The inpatient wards had roughly 30–40 patients for a while, but now also that figure has risen to 46,” noted Petäjä.

HUS, he added, has the capacity to cope with the situation over the holidays in spite of the steady increase in hospitalisations.

“On Monday, we’ll return to work and we’ll organise operations with the support of the coronavirus epidemic management team at HUS. We’re moving forward in accordance with a so-called escalation model. It enables us to be ready to take in new patients.”

Almost all of the patients in intensive care are unvaccinated, according to Petäjä.

“There are underlying factors explaining the disease for the couple of vaccinated people who are being treated in intensive care units. The strong protective impact of vaccines is constantly visible,” he stated.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT