National strategy for COVID-19 testing and tracing updated to target testing and tracing more accurately
In future, COVID-19 testing will primarily focus on unvaccinated people who have been exposed to the virus and are experiencing symptoms and on vaccinated people who still continue to be at risk of serious illness from COVID-19. This is stated in the national strategy for COVID-19 testing and tracing updated by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.
Maintaining the current testing and tracing capacity places a considerable burden on healthcare and may regionally lead to a reduced availability of other services. High vaccination coverage reduces especially the number of serious COVID-19 cases. Because of this, it is now possible to reduce the testing and tracing capacity in a controlled manner in order to safeguard other functions.
It is, however, necessary to maintain the preparedness to increase the capacity again if necessary. In addition, it is essential for Finland to continue to be able to detect COVID-19 clusters quickly, trace chains of infection, curb the spread of infections and identify possible new virus variants that give cause for concern.
People should be able to access a test within 24 hours
To ensure equal treatment, all people who are experiencing symptoms indicative of COVID-19 or who are suspected to have COVID-19 must, regardless of their age, have access to the necessary tests on medical grounds.
The aim continues to be for people to access a test within 24 hours and receive their results within 24 hours of the test. At the same time, it is necessary to ensure the availability of other medical examinations. Increased vaccination coverage reduces the disease burden and also lessens the risk of more serious cases of the disease, despite new infections.
The aim of contact tracing is to identify unvaccinated people exposed to the virus as early as possible and to focus on situations where the risk of the virus spreading is greatest. If there is a considerable backlog in contact tracing, it is vital to first trace cases of exposure where there is a high risk of infection.
Testing and contact tracing are one of the statutory duties of municipalities, which is supported by hospital districts and coordinated by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. In carrying out testing and tracing, account must be taken of the regional and local situation and the decisions that the authorities make based on that in order to target testing and tracing.
The national COVID-19 testing and tracing strategy is intended as a recommendation, and it complements the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health’s action plan for implementing the hybrid strategy. The measures will be updated again as the pandemic subsides.
Pasi Pohjola, Director, 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, tel. +358 50 515 0615, [email protected]