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Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare
Downward trend in COVID-19 infections has continued for several weeks

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
22.4.2021 10.00 | Published in English on 22.4.2021 at 14.49
Press release 105/2021

Over the past five weeks, the number of new COVID-19 cases has clearly declined. This is a good sign indicating that the epidemic is calming down in Finland. The current restrictions and recommendations and the closure of businesses serving food and beverages have clearly been effective and prevented infections.

However, the number of new cases remains high, which means that the situation may deteriorate rapidly again if contacts between people increase significantly in the next few weeks, allowing the virus to spread more freely in the population. 

Currently, the number of new cases is at the same level as at the turn of the year and in October–November 2020. Cases of more transmissible virus variants have been reported throughout the country. To ensure that the positive trend will continue, the restrictions should be eased gradually while closely monitoring the number of infections.

There are major regional differences in the development of the epidemic. Southern Finland is still the worst affected area, but the number of cases has clearly declined in the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS), for example.

Clear downward trend in number and incidence of cases

Between 12 and 18 April, over 1,900 new cases were reported to the communicable diseases register, showing a decrease of about 600 cases from the previous week. The number of new cases was 60% lower between 12 and 18 April than between 8 and 14 March, when the number of cases was highest during the entire epidemic (4,941 cases). The incidence of new cases was 35 per 100,000 inhabitants, while in the previous week it was 46.

The total number of new cases reported in the last two-week period was almost 4,500, which is about 3,000 cases fewer than in the preceding two-week period. The incidence of new cases was 80 per 100,000 inhabitants in the last two-week period, while in the preceding two-week period it was 134.

Currently, the estimated basic reproduction number is 0.75–0.90, with a 90 per cent probability. This is at the same level as the week before.

Around 104,000 COVID-19 tests were taken between 12 and 18 April. The number of samples taken has declined steadily over the past month. On the other hand, the percentage of positive COVID-19 cases of all samples taken has also declined over the past month, standing at approximately 1.8% between 12 and 18 April. This means that infections are still detected effectively.

In Finland as a whole, the source of infection was traced in over 70 per cent of all new cases of domestic origin. Between 12 and 18 April, cases where the virus was contracted abroad accounted for 5.5 % of all new cases. As in the previous week, the further infections resulting from them accounted for 1.4 per cent of all cases.

Vaccinations have led to reduced need for hospital care

COVID-19 vaccines are estimated to have reduced the need for hospital care. More than 85% of people aged 70 years or older have already received their first vaccine dose. The medical risk groups are expected to have mainly received their first dose by mid-May. 

The number of patients in hospital care was highest at the end of March before Easter (between 22 March and 4 April). Compared to this, the total number of patients in hospital care has reduced by half. The number of patients requiring intensive care has remained relatively stable over the past week. On Wednesday 21 April, there were 35 patients in intensive care, 38 inpatients in primary healthcare and 69 inpatients in specialised healthcare. The total number of COVID-19 inpatients was 142. The need for hospital care is expected to decrease further in the coming weeks.

On 21 April 2021, the total number of deaths related to the disease was 899.

Antibody studies provide further information on immunity among population 

This week, the monitoring report includes an attachment providing information on seroepidemiological studies, in other words antibody studies. Since April 2020, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare has conducted antibody studies to obtain information on how large a proportion of the population has been infected with COVID-19 in Finland. 

According to the report, the proportion of the population infected with COVID-19 has remained low. The majority of people who have had a COVID-19 infection retain antibodies for a long time. An ongoing follow-up study evaluates the immune response of those who have had a COVID-19 infection against virus variants. Preliminary results will be available during spring and summer. 

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. 

Inquiries:

Mika Salminen, Director, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, [email protected] (development of the epidemic) 
Otto Helve, Chief Physician, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, [email protected] (development of the epidemic)
Simopekka Vänskä, Senior Researcher, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, [email protected] (projection models) 
Liisa-Maria Voipio-Pulkki, 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)

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