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National strategy for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing updated due to changes in epidemiological situation

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
Publication date 10.12.2021 17.25 | Published in English on 13.12.2021 at 13.13
Press release 392

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has updated the national strategy for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing. The principles for testing are still to detect infections quickly, curb the spread of infections among the population and protect particularly people who are at an increased risk of contracting a severe case of COVID-19.

To ensure equal treatment, all people who are experiencing symptoms indicative of COVID-19 or suspected to have COVID-19 must, regardless of their age, continue to have access to the necessary diagnostic examinations. The aim continues to be for people to access a test with 24 hours and receive their results with 24 hours of the test. At the same time, it is necessary to ensure the availability of other medical examinations.

In line with the updated strategy, people who are experiencing symptoms indicative of COVID-19 and who have been vaccinated twice or people who have already had COVID-19 and received at least one vaccine dose against COVID-19 and children under the age of 12 should also be tested.

According to the strategy, it is justified to conduct a COVID-19 test especially in the following cases: 

  • all patients admitted to hospital or visiting 24-hour service units at hospitals
  • people exposed to COVID-19 within the past two weeks
  • people at high risk of contracting a severe form of the COVID-19 disease, including pregnant women
  • people who received their second COVID-19 vaccine dose over five months ago but who have not yet received their booster dose 
  • healthcare and social welfare workers, and residents at care units for older people. 

Children under the age of 12 should be tested particularly if their family members include persons who are not fully vaccinated, the child has been exposed to the virus within the past two weeks or the child has symptoms of infection which require testing based on a physician’s assessment. 

In accordance with the updated strategy, home testing will be taken into wider use and people will be provided with guidance on the use of home tests. Testing will be expanded to include home testing with a view to improving the health security of both workplaces and schools. The change will be prepared in cooperation with the operators in the field and carried out in a controlled manner. A working group will be established in connection with the national expert group on COVID-19 testing. The task of the working group will be to prepare plans on how to use home testing alongside laboratory testing in various situations where people are infected or exposed. 

The aim of contact tracing is to identify and test people exposed to the virus as early as possible in order to prevent further infections. Municipalities see to the allocation of appropriate resourcing for contact tracing within the available resources. 

Effective prevention of the epidemic calls for a continuous ability to make, if necessary, quick decisions to quarantine people based on an up-to-date risk assessment. It is appropriate to target quarantines so as to prevent as many exposure situations as possible. 

The strategy states that, in terms of both adults and children, Finland should follow the quarantine and tracing practices that are in line with international research data and the guidelines issued issued by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

In carrying out testing and contact tracing, account must be taken of the regional and local situation and the decisions that the authorities have made based on that in order to target testing and tracing in an appropriate manner.

The strategy, which is intended as a recommendation, is part of the revision of the Government’s hybrid strategy and of the action plan implementing the hybrid strategy. The strategy follows the key principles and guidelines of the revised hybrid strategy.

The national strategy for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing was updated in close cooperation with the Finnish laboratory network LAB7 and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.

Inquiries:

Pasi Pohjola, Director of Strategic Affairs, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, [email protected]
Taneli Puumalainen, Director General, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, [email protected]
Mikko Pietilä, Medical Director, Hospital District of Southwest Finland, [email protected]

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