Corona has become a "nice companion" that is now spreading like wildfire - a strangely contagious transformation is also taking over the industry in Finland

The need for medical care for corona patients has increased. However, according to THL's Mika Salminen, there is no reason for special concern.

Corona has become a "nice companion" that is now spreading like wildfire - a strangely contagious transformation is also taking over the industry in Finland
Photo: Stock images

No one knows the exact number of corona infections in Finland. More and more people resort to a home test and do not get an official test result.

The coronavirus is still raging in the population, experts interviewed by Yle estimate. The load on hospitals is increasing, and hospital districts believe that infections will increase significantly in the fall.

We asked Lasse Lehtonen, director of diagnostics at HUS, Markku Broas, chief infectious disease doctor of Lapland's hospital district, and Mika Salmis, director of THL's health safety department, what it is good to know about the corona situation in Finland right now.

Corona is now spreading strongly in the population, and one of the reasons for the phenomenon is the corona mutations that are contagious. The coronavirus variant that is in power in Europe, i.e. BA.5, is also taking over the industry in Finland.

- In practice, at least three-quarters of the cases in the HUS area are the BA.5 variant, which is the most contagious variant in Europe at the moment. We are on the same page as the rest of Europe. The European Agency for Infectious Diseases already warned in May that the increase in the BA.5 variant will increase the need for medical treatment and corona-related deaths, Lehtonen points out.

The second most common BA.4 and BA.5 conversions are sub-variants of the omikron conversion familiar to Finns. The infectivity rate of the subvariants has been estimated as high as 18.6. One infected person is estimated to make twenty people sick on average.

According to THL's Salminen, the new variant does not cause special concern and there are no "catastrophe ingredients" in the air.

- Fortunately, vaccines seem to provide good protection against the severe form of the disease caused by this variant as well. I'm sure that this will become the dominant variant in Finland as well if it isn't already.

Infection rates have increased elsewhere in Europe. In the light of official figures, growth in Finland has still been quite moderate.

- There are 1,500-2,000 confirmed infections per day, which are probably only the tip of the iceberg. The situation has remained stable, says THL's Salminen

However, the official figures do not tell the whole truth, because not all patients get an official test result. The prevalence of the virus is monitored, for example, by wastewater monitoring.

In the area of ​​HUS, the number of tests has decreased significantly compared to, for example, spring. Of those tested, the share of positive results was, for example, 43 percent last week.

- Several thousand positives come in official tests every week. The estimate is that it is a small part of the total. For example, in Varsinais-Suomi, based on the infections of its own personnel, it has been estimated that the correct number may be six times higher, says Lehtonen.

In vaccinated basically healthy people, the symptoms are mostly mild, but the increase in infections can also be seen as an increase in the number of people who need hospital treatment. A strong increase in the number of infections increases the number of serious disease cases.

- There is research evidence that if the fourth vaccine is missing and more than 3-4 months have passed since the third vaccine, the probability of people over 60 and those belonging to the risk group being in intensive care increases, and the risk of death increases, says senior infectious disease doctor Broas.

The number of people in hospital is increasing

According to the data published by the Health and Welfare Institute THL last week, more than 650 of the people infected with the coronavirus were hospitalized. THL collects data from hospital districts and publishes fresh figures once a week.

The number of people with a corona in hospitals throughout Finland has slightly increased in recent weeks.

In the hospital district of Helsinki and Uusimaa, the increase in the need for hospital treatment has been growing steadily since mid-June. However, according to Diagnostics Director Lasse Lehtonen, growth has still been moderate.

- There were 59 corona-positive patients in HUS hospitals this morning, and two of them were in intensive care. Quite a few patients have a main diagnosis other than corona, Lehtonen explains.

The mortality rate of people suffering from corona disease has instead decreased. The decline started already in the spring and continued in the summer. THL's Salminen trusts that vaccinations will curb the increase in mortality, even if the number of infections increases.

About 54 percent of the Finns have received three doses of the vaccine. According to THL, the third vaccine dose is still not considered necessary for those who have had the corona disease and those who have received two doses of the vaccine and belong to the non-risk group.

The protection from a severe form of the disease provided by the infected disease or the vaccine is not long-lasting, and they do not protect against infection. HUS's Lehtonen estimates that the protection provided by the third vaccine is already beginning to weaken in many elderly people.

- If vaccine protection is not maintained, the risk of a serious form of the disease caused by the corona will increase significantly, he emphasizes.

A face mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer are on the table.

mask sanitizer

Familiar protection skills should still be used if necessary. Photo: stock images

HUS's Lehtonen: "Corona patients are not particularly needed there now

There is an acute shortage of nursing staff in public healthcare. If the number of corona patients needing hospital treatment increases, it will strain the system even more.

In the hospital districts of Lapland and West Ostrobothnia, the load on the bedwards has increased.

- Epidemics have also been seen, i.e. the disease has managed to spread in the wards of health centers. It has caused several patients in the bedwards to get sick, says Markku Broas, chief infectious disease doctor.

According to HUS's Lehtonen, an increase in the number of corona patients could further increase treatment queues and slow down access to treatment.

- Corona patients are not particularly needed there now to increase the load, HUS's Lehtonen points out.

According to experts, by taking the vaccine, everyone can do their part to prevent the burden of medical care.

- Taking the fourth vaccine for a person in a risk group reduces the risk of hospitalization. It is also important for the normal functioning of society and remaining open, Broas estimates.

Both Lehtonen and Broas praise the decision on the fourth corona vaccine. THL recommends bringing up the administration of fourth vaccine doses and gradually extending them to younger age groups.

HUS's Lehtonen believes that in the future, vaccines that offer longer-lasting protection and are more effective against different corona variants will be available.

- However, the corona has proven to be a tough opponent when it is able to adapt so well and evade vaccine protection, Lehtonen formulates.

Vaccinations progress in time, and some of those in risk groups are without vaccine protection. Broas hopes that people would remember the already familiar safety instructions.

- As long as this vaccine protection of the fourth vaccine is still missing, it is important to consider Corona in your own activities and use an FFP mask when dealing with other people. I also recommend the same to people who meet people who belong to risk groups.

People in risk groups are best protected by staying at home if they are symptomatic.

Sticky spikes are planted in the fall

The number of corona infections is estimated to increase in the fall when people return to schools and workplaces. Autumns are also a favorable time for the spread of other respiratory infections.

- It seems that the current wave of the epidemic will continue and due to the increase in the number of infected cases, the hospital load will probably also increase, Broas estimates.

After the lifting of restrictions and mask recommendations, many basically healthy people enjoy the summer as if the corona was no longer there.

According to experts, especially those who belong to risk groups, it is good to keep in mind the previously learned protective measures, but there is no need to worry too much.

- You have to be realistic: the crown should not be underestimated or exaggerated. The new BA.5 variant is now spreading like wildfire. When a person is healthy and young, the disease is usually not serious, but it can be for those who belong to risk groups, stresses chief infectious disease doctor Broas.

THL's Salminen believes that people have understood that the corona is here to stay.

- There is no need to be particularly worried. We know ways that everyone can protect themselves if they want. However, it is equally important to live, even in this situation.

Source: YLE