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Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare
Signs of an accelerating coronavirus epidemic – all are urged to take responsibility to prevent spread of infections

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 24.9.2020 10.00 | Published in English on 24.9.2020 at 11.12
Press release 217/2020

The number of new COVID-19 cases has risen in Finland over the past few weeks, and more hospital districts are reporting new cases. The rising incidence, the growing share of positive samples, the increasing difficulties to trace sources of infection and the growing number of further infections all foreshadow an approaching acceleration stage in the epidemic. People under 30 years of age account for about 50% of all cases.

The approaching acceleration of the epidemic calls for a rapid and proactive response. Epidemic prevention measures under the Communicable Diseases Act are primarily local and regional. People are urged to take responsibility to prevent spread of infections by observing the authorities’ recommendations to keep a safe distance, practise good hygiene, wear masks, work from home and show prudence when taking part in recreational activities. Recommendations can vary across Finland according to how the epidemic develops and on the success of identifying sources of infection.

Incidence is growing rapidly

During the latest period (14–20 September), a total of 448 new cases were reported to the communicable diseases register. In the previous week (7–13 September), the number of reported cases was 350. The incidence of new cases was 8.1 per 100,000 inhabitants. It was 6.3 per 100,000 inhabitants in the preceding week (7–13 September). For three weeks now, the weekly increase in the number of cases has been around 100 cases.

The total number of new cases in the last two-week period was 798, while in the preceding two-week period (24 August – 6 September) it was 387. The incidence of new cases was 14.4 per 100,000 inhabitants and in the preceding two-week period (24 August – 6 September), it was 7.0 per 100,000 inhabitants. This means that the incidence of cases has clearly increased in recent weeks.

Currently, the estimated basic reproduction number is 1.20–1.25, with a 90 per cent probability. This is at the same level as the week before.

A total of 9,288 cases have been confirmed in Finland by 23 September 2020. There have been 343 deaths related to the disease. It is estimated that about 7,850 people, which is over 80 per cent of all confirmed cases, have recovered from the disease. 

Cases with unknown source of infection on the rise 

In recent weeks, domestic COVID-19 clusters and mass exposures have led to further infections. Mass infections show how efficiently the virus is transmitted between persons who are in close contact for a longer time. People are urged not to go to school, day care, work or recreational activities if they have any symptoms. Avoiding close contact with others and maintaining good hand hygiene are effective ways to prevent the spread of infection.

Cases with unknown source of infection accounted for about 44% of all new cases in the latest period (14–20 September). The virus has spread within families and educational institutions and through recreational activities and private events. The background information is based on the information reported by 12 hospital districts and the City of Helsinki, covering over 200 cases. 
The aim is to continue to carefully track the transmission chains of all new cases in order to prevent new infections as effectively as possible.

The most recent weekly report of the situational picture and modelling group as well as previous reports are available on the website of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

Regional variations and signs of an accelerating epidemic in some parts of the country
There have been great regional variations in the epidemiological situation in the latest period (14–20 September). New large and local COVID-19 clusters and transmission chains have significantly increased the number and incidence of cases in some areas. However, there are also areas that have succeeded well in tracing and breaking transmission chains. In some areas, the situation has remained stable already for a long time.

On 23 September 2020, a total of 22 patients were receiving hospital care due to the COVID-19 disease. Four of them were in intensive care. 

Increase in the number of positive test results 

At present, the testing capacity of laboratories is about 20,000 samples per day, and the number of conducted tests is high in relation to the population. During the period of 14–20 September, the number of people tested for coronavirus, about 8,000–15,000 people per day, was higher than in the previous week. The percentage of positive COVID-19 cases of all samples was about 0.5% in the period of 14–20 September. 

Inquiries:

Taneli Puumalainen, Chief Physician, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, [email protected] (development of the epidemic)
Simopekka Vänskä, Senior Researcher, Docent, 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)

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