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COVID-19 situation worsening quickly across Finland, with sharp rise in incidence of new cases
Over the past two weeks, the number of new COVID-19 cases reported in Finland has been significantly higher than before, and the number has continued to increase at an alarming rate despite the restrictions. In fact, during the latest reporting period (22–28 February), Finland recorded the highest number of new cases since the start of the epidemic. The rapid deterioration of the situation calls for swift and more stringent measures to curb the epidemic.
The incidence of new cases over the last 14-day period has increased in as many as 16 hospital districts. When compared to the situation two weeks ago, the incidence of cases has remained at the same level or decreased in only five areas. The COVID-19 situation has worsened quickly particularly in the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa, the Hospital District of Southwest Finland and the Åland Islands.
Between 22 and 28 February, over 3,900 cases were reported to the communicable diseases register, showing an increase of about 400 cases from the previous week. The incidence of new cases over the last 7-day period was 71 per 100,000 inhabitants.
The total number of new cases in the last two-week period was over 7,400, which was nearly 2,300 cases more than in the preceding two-week period. The incidence of new cases over the last 14-day period was 134 per 100,000 inhabitants, while in the preceding two-week period it was 93.
The estimated basic reproduction number has continued to increase, and currently, it is 1.15–1.35, with a 90 per cent probability.
What is positive is that the threshold for people getting tested is low now. The number of COVID-19 tests has almost doubled compared to the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021. Between 22 and 28 February, over 137,000 tests were carried out. Despite the increased number of tests taken, the number of positive samples continues to grow. During the last two-week period, about 2.8 per cent of all tests were positive.
Particularly the UK variant continues to spread across Finland. So far, a total of 1,274 cases of the new virus variants have been confirmed in the country. Of these, 1,205 are cases of the UK variant and 68 of the South African variant. One travel-related case of the Brazilian variant, known as P.1, has been identified in Finland so far.
Rapidly increasing number of cases places a burden on healthcare services
In the whole of Finland, the number of people requiring hospital care has clearly increased within the past week. The need for intensive care has also increased over the past few weeks, particularly in hospitals within the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa. However, the capacity of intensive care has not been threatened on the national scale.
On 3 March 2021, a total of 258 patients were receiving hospital care due to the COVID-19 disease. Of them, a total of 106 were inpatients in primary healthcare, 115 inpatients in specialised healthcare and 37 inpatients in intensive care. According to the forecast, the number of periods in specialised healthcare and intensive care continues to increase over the next week. On 3 March, the total number of deaths related to the disease was 759.
Most new cases among young people — older people must be protected
Between 22 and 28 February, most of the new cases were still reported among working-age adults and young adults. The percentage of older people of all confirmed cases has remained small since the beginning of this year. During the period of 22–28 February, people over 60 years of age accounted for about 10 per cent of the new cases, while people over 70 years of age accounted for about four per cent of the new cases.
Older people and those in other risk groups clearly have a higher risk of developing a more severe form of COVID-19, being hospitalised and dying from the COVID-19 disease than others. It is clear that the rapidly growing number of cases also increases the risk of infection for older people. Because of this, people who are most at risk from COVID-19 must be protected. This requires that everyone acts responsibly and follows strictly the regional recommendations and restrictions in place.
The vaccine rollout is progressing well in all catchment areas for highly specialised medical care in accordance with the vaccination strategy. On 3 March 2021, more than 60 per cent of people over 90 years of age had received at least one vaccine dose, and about half of those aged 80–89 had been vaccinated at least once.
- Progress with the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations (Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare), in Finnish and Swedish
The monitoring report on the epidemic published today and the previous reports are available on the website of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.
This week the monitoring report includes an attachment providing information on the risk factors for serious illness from COVID-19 in the light of domestic cases and a monthly report on the situation in intensive care.
- Monitoring coronavirus (Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare), in Finnish and Swedish
- The COVID-19 epidemic: regional situation, recommendations and restrictions (Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare)
- Coronavirus in numbers (Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa)
- Action plan for implementing the hybrid strategy to curb the COVID-19 epidemic in January–May 2021 (Publications of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 2021:1)
- Situation in intensive care, 3 March 2021 (National coordinating office for intensive care), in Finnish
Mika Salminen, Director, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, [email protected] (development of the epidemic)
Taneli Puumalainen, Chief Physician, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, [email protected] (development of the epidemic)
Kari Auranen, Senior Researcher, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, [email protected] (projection models)
Liisa-Maria Voipio-Pulkki, Strategic Director, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, [email protected] (situational picture and modelling group)
Pasi Pohjola, Director, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, [email protected] (situational picture and modelling group)