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Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare
Current COVID-19 situation in Finland: new virus variants cause concern

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
18.2.2021 10.00 | Published in English on 18.2.2021 at 16.16
Press release 37/2021

Over the past four weeks, the number of COVID-19 cases have remained at the same relatively high level across Finland. About 2,300–2,700 new cases are reported every week. The number of people requiring hospital care has remained relatively stable, but the need for intensive care has increased slightly in the past few days. The weekly number of deaths from COVID-19 is decreasing slowly.

The epidemiological situation is characterised by great and rapidly changing regional differences. Especially in Uusimaa, the situation has deteriorated further. Between 1 and 14 February, the incidence of new cases during the 14-day period was 186 per 100,000 inhabitants in the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa, while in the whole country it was 91 per 100,000 inhabitants. In some places in the Greater Helsinki area, there is a backlog in tracing contacts of COVID-19 cases. 

Over the past four weeks, the incidence of new cases in a 14-day period was also more than 100 per 100,000 inhabitants in the Hospital Districts of Southwest Finland, Central Finland, Vaasa and East Savo.  

People are particularly concerned about the new variant identified in the UK spreading to Finland. So far, a total of 450 cases of the new variants have been confirmed in the country. Of these, 427 were cases of the UK variant and 22 of the South African variant. One travel-related case of the Brazilian variant, known as P.1, has been identified in Finland so far.  

The new virus variants also raise concern especially in Uusimaa. Slightly over 70% of the cases of the UK variant were reported in the Hospital District of Uusimaa and Helsinki.

The mutated versions of the virus are identified by sequencing the whole genome of the virus or parts of it. Every week, a sample of positive COVID-19 tests is selected to help assess the situation across the country. 

Number of cases remain high

Between 8 and 14 February, nearly 2,500 new cases were reported, which is slightly less than in the previous week. The incidence of new cases was 45 per 100,000 inhabitants, while in the previous week it was 47.

Currently, the estimated basic reproduction number is 0.95–1.15, with a 90 per cent probability.

Approximately 8,600 people were quarantined between 8 and 14 February, which is about 2,400 people less than in the previous week. Additionally, 39% of the new cases were reported among people already in quarantine. In the previous week, the figure was 27%.  

During the period of 8 and 14 February, the majority of the new cases were of domestic origin as before. The proportion of cases where the virus was contracted abroad continued to fall, and between 8 and 14 February, they accounted for 3% of all cases. The further infections resulting from them accounted for about 1% of all cases.

Majority of those infected are people under 50 years of age

In Finland as a whole, the source of infection was traced in over 60% of all new cases. The source of infection was traced in at least 75% of the cases in 13 of the 21 hospital districts in Finland. This means that contact tracing works well for the most part. Currently, most of the new cases are reported among working-age adults, and more specifically, among young adults. Between 8 and 14 February, people under 50 years of age accounted for nearly 80% of all confirmed cases and people under 30 years of age for nearly half of the cases. 

The percentage of people over 70 years of age has increased. Last week they accounted for 4% of all cases whereas now they account for 9% of them. The more the virus spreads in the population, the greater the risk of contracting the virus for those whose age puts them at high risk. 

It is important to protect those at risk to prevent serious cases of the COVID-19 disease and the related deaths. Because of this, Finland started the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in line with its vaccination strategy, prioritising the older age groups for vaccinations. Now other risk groups are also being vaccinated. 

On 17 February, a total of 132 patients were receiving hospital care due to the COVID-19 disease. Of them, a total of 42 were inpatients in primary healthcare, 60 inpatients in specialised healthcare and 30 inpatients in intensive care. 

Between 8 and 14 February, the number of deaths related to the disease was 17, while in the previous two weeks it was 21 and 25. On 17 February 2021, the total number of deaths related to the disease was 723. 

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 also includes an attachment providing information on the monitoring of the new virus variants.

Inquiries:

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)

 
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