PATIENTS with Covid-19 are no longer putting a significant strain on health care resources in the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS).
YLE on Saturday reported that the hospital district had fewer than 40 coronavirus patients in hospital care and zero patients in intensive care on Thursday. More than two-thirds of the patients had also sought treatment primarily for other reasons than Covid-19, told Asko Järvinen, the chief physician of infectious diseases at HUS.
“Only extremely few require additional oxygen because of a coronavirus infection. A disease presentation where the oxygen supply is disrupted has become extremely rare,” he said to the public broadcasting company.
The positive development is attributable to two factors: the protection provided by vaccines and the emergence of highly transmissible but less dangerous variants of the new coronavirus.
“Vaccines continue to provide sound protection against severe disease presentations. The new omicron sub-variants also don’t cause serious pneumonia to the same extent as earlier variants,” explained Järvinen.
Even though the number of infections can start rising later in the autumn and early winter as the immunity built up earlier this year begins to wane, he does not believe another wave of infections would result in intensive care units filling up to the same degree as previously.
“Many have had the disease this year, which reduces the ability of the current viruses to cause a wider epidemic. The epidemic is still continuing and infections are continuing to occur,” he told. “If a new kind of virus that’s capable of escaping immune protection emerges late in the autumn, I think it’s likely there’ll be even more infections at the turn of the year.”
The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) has similarly indicated that the epidemiological situation has stabilised after the slight increases detected at the end of the summer and beginning of the autumn. Wastewater analyses, for example, are detecting fewer and fewer traces of the coronavirus.
Tuija Leino, a chief physician at THL, reminded that the situation continues to vary from one region to the next, with some registering slight increases in infection and hospitalisation numbers.
“It’s increasingly rare that coronavirus is the primary reason for treatment,” she added. “We still have a highly transmissible omicron variant that’s moving pretty much unrestricted. At the same time we have very sound population immunity as a result of both infections and widespread vaccinations. It stabilises the situation.”
She estimated that the prevalent variants are unlikely to cause rapid swings in the epidemiological situation. A new variant, on the other hand, can produce yet another spike in infections.
“I’d say that we’ve seen the major effects of the epidemic with the current kind of virus,” said Leino. “The vaccinations in the autumn and early winter are an attempt to reduce the remaining effects of the pandemic as much as possible.”
Aleksi Teivainen – HT