Ministerial working group on COVID-19 discusses current epidemiological situation and preparedness for autumn season
In its meeting on 16 August, the Government’s Ministerial Working Group on Coordinating COVID-19 Response received an overview of the epidemiological situation, progress on vaccinations and the possible continuation of the temporary amendments to the Communicable Diseases Act.
The number of COVID-19 cases is falling in the EU, although some countries have yet to reach the peak of the current wave. The number of reported cases and the increase in the percentage of positive cases in Finland have also seen a slight decline compared to recent weeks. These developments have taken place over a very short period, however, and a longer monitoring period would be needed in order to draw conclusions.
The COVID-19 situation has been stable with regard to the incidence of cases in almost all parts of the country and among all age groups over a two-week monitoring period. The number of patients with COVID-19 in intensive care has remained relatively low throughout the summer.
Around 60 deaths in connection with COVID-19 infections are being reported each week. High levels of COVID-19 continue to be found in wastewater samples, which means that there are still a high number of infections among the population.
Vaccinations progressing well in Finland
Around 62 per cent of the world’s population has received a full course of primary vaccination, but the distribution of vaccines remains uneven. In Finland, nearly 89 per cent of 18-year-olds have received a full course of primary vaccination, usually two doses of vaccine.
Among the population groups at the highest risk of severe disease or death, the number of people who have received a third dose of vaccine is very high. The number of people who have received four doses is also rising. According to the most recent estimates, the majority of adults are likely to have hybrid immunity from both vaccination and infection, which provides good protection against the most serious forms of COVID-19. Vaccines alone continue to provide good protection against the most serious forms of the disease. That said, vaccination does not prevent infection with COVID-19 effectively over a long period of time.
Commission recommends preparing for the autumn
According to the European Commission, the EU Member States must continue to prepare for a significant worsening of the epidemiological situation in autumn and winter 2022. In line with the Commission’s recommendations, Member States must ensure the best possible vaccination coverage for their populations and, in particular, for those groups at risk of serious forms of the disease.
In addition, countries must ensure sufficient testing capacity that can be expanded rapidly as needed, as well as sufficient capacity for hospital care. If necessary, the COVID-19 certificates can be reintroduced for cross-border travel.
Continuation of temporary legal provisions concerning COVID-19
With regard to the amendments to the Communicable Diseases Act and the temporary provisions introduced due to COVID-19, the working group received an overview of the feedback collected during the consultation round for the Act.
Around sixty of the comments received were in part very critical. The authors of these comments did not support the proposal and considered it unnecessary to reintroduce the temporary provisions added to the Communicable Diseases Act as a result of COVID-19. However, some of the comments stated that the authorities should continue to have temporary statutory tools for preventing the spread of the COVID-19, especially those needed to safeguard the capacity of healthcare and social welfare if the epidemiological situation deteriorates. Municipalities and regional state administrative agencies could make decisions based on statutes if this were necessary to manage a very difficult epidemiological situation.
Sampo Varjonen, Special Adviser to Minister Lindén, [email protected]
Veli-Mikko Niemi, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, [email protected]
Taneli Puumalainen, Director General, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, [email protected]
Mia Kontio, Chief Specialist, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, [email protected] (vaccinations)