During the period of 16–22 November, the number of Covid-19 cases increased sharply, and new infections were reported in all hospital districts.

A map of Greater Helsinki and the capital region. Illustration: Public domain

The coronavirus situation has worsened almost throughout Finland but particularly in the Greater Helsinki area and the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa, according to the latest assessment by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.

New restrictions and recommendations have already been introduced and will be introduced not only in the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa but also elsewhere in the country. However, in South Savo, for example, transmission chains have been kept well under control.

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During the period of 16–22 November, the number of cases increased sharply, and new infections were reported in all hospital districts. The majority of new cases were reported in the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa where the number of infections has been the highest since the pandemic started.

More municipalities in spreading phase

In addition to the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa, the Päijät-Häme Hospital District has reported having entered the community transmission phase (the spreading phase) of the pandemic. The Hospital Districts of Kanta-Häme, Kymenlaakso, Länsi-Pohja, Pirkanmaa, North Ostrobothnia, Vaasa and Southwest Finland and the Åland Islands are in the acceleration phase.

The remaining 11 hospital districts are at a stable level, but there are individual cities and towns situated in some of these hospital districts that have entered the acceleration phase. These are Alajärvi and Soini, Kronoby, Joensuu, Rauma and Pori.

Between November 16 and 22, a total of 2,541 new cases were reported to the communicable diseases register, representing an increase of 906 from the previous week. At the national level, the incidence of new cases was 46 per 100,000 inhabitants, while in the previous week it was 30.

The total number of new cases in the last two-week period (November 9–22) was 4,176, which was 1,315 cases more than in the preceding two-week period. The incidence of new cases was 75 per 100,000 inhabitants, while in the preceding two-week period it was 52.

Currently, the estimated basic reproduction number is 1.0–1.2, with a 90 percent probability. One-fourth of those infected were in quarantine when they tested positive for the coronavirus.

Domestic infections

The majority of the new cases continue to be of domestic origin. Cases, where the virus was contracted abroad, accounted for about 3% of all new cases, although there was a lot of variation between hospital districts (ranging from 0% to 36%). Less than 1% of all cases were infections caught in Finland that came from people who had contracted the virus abroad.

One-fourth of all new cases were reported among people who were already in quarantine when they tested positive for Covid-19. In the previous week, such cases accounted for one-third of all cases.

At present, the testing capacity of laboratories is about 26,000 samples per day. In addition, some regions have started using antigen tests. During the period of November 16–22, around 7,000–18,000 samples were analyzed daily. Of them, 2.6% were positive. This represents an increase of nearly one percentage point from the previous week.

Source known in half ot the infections

At the national level, the source of infection was identified in about half of the cases as in the previous week. In the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa, the source of infection was known in about one-third of the cases.

Approximately half of the traced infections were contracted from people living in the same household. In 14% of the cases, the virus had spread at workplaces. Educational institutions and recreational activities accounted for 7% of the cases respectively, and about 3% of the cases were traced back to restaurants and other food and beverage service businesses. Only isolated cases of Covid-19 were reported in early childhood education and care, although many mass exposures occurred in daycare centers. Despite the numerous mass exposures in daycare centers and educational institutions, hardly any further infections were reported.

The majority of all cases, that is about 75% of them, were reported among people under 50 years of age and some 40% among people under 30 years of age.

Over the past few weeks, the number of infections has also increased among older age groups. People over 60 years of age now account for more than 12% of the cases, which is a few percentage points higher than a couple of weeks ago. What is worrying is that in the past few weeks the percentage of people over 70 years of age has risen by about three percentage points to approximately 6%. People over 70 years of age have an elevated risk of developing a more serious form of the Covid-19 disease so it is essential to protect them from contracting the virus.

The number of patients requiring hospital and intensive care has been increasing since October. On November 25, 2020, a total of 134 patients were receiving hospital care due to the Covid-19 disease, and 21 of them were in intensive care.

It is estimated that about 16,800 people, which is over 70% of all confirmed cases, have recovered from the disease. The total number of confirmed cases in Finland now stands at 22,652. There have been 388 deaths related to the disease.