Mika Salminen of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) is not convinced about the benefits of large-scale contact tracing and quarantines in the present epidemiological situation. (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)


TENS OF THOUSANDS of Finns are contracting the new coronavirus every week and the virus is showing no signs of slowing down, prompting health care authorities to re-examine the relevance of contact tracing and quarantines.

Mika Salminen, the director of health security at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), on Tuesday stated to YLE that Finland should scrap quarantines and large-scale contact tracing and replace them with self-reported sick leaves.

“We should frankly already give up on contact tracing. I’m talking especially about mild cases in vaccinated people and contact tracing them,” he elaborated to the public broadcasting company.

The health care staff assigned to contact tracing should be re-assigned to actual care duties, he added, highlighting that scores of social and health care professionals are currently not at work because they have been exposed to or tested positive for the virus.

“That’s another reason for not using the resources needlessly for contact tracing. They’re needed in health care.”

Salminen estimated that the quarantines ordered by infectious diseases officials should also be scrapped in their present form. Employees, he viewed, should be allowed to be absent from work at their own discretion longer than a couple of days in the event that they contract the new coronavirus.

Municipalities in the Finnish capital region announced at the start of the week their decision to suspend large-scale testing and contact tracing.

Ilkka Julkunen, a professor of virology at the University of Turku, told YLE that the infection numbers will remain high for some weeks, adding that they should be managed with restrictions and vaccinations.

“The situation is looking bad in the sense that because there are so many infections and contact tracing is floundering, there are plenty of opportunities to catch, become exposed to the virus and new infections,” he said.

The approaching spring offers a glimmer of hope as vaccine uptake and immunity are boosted by the third round of vaccinations.

“After several doses, the protection is probably better also for future mutations of the virus. That means there’ll be fewer people who are vulnerable to the disease and the epidemic can’t spread as widely any more.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT