At present, the number of infections in Helsinki is as high as at the peak of the epidemic last spring, from between two hundred to three hundred infections every day. The incidence rate per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days is 501. The corresponding figure a week earlier was 400. The epidemic situation is difficult and it seems that the proportion concerning the omicron variant is increasing quite rapidly in Helsinki as well.
When looking at the figures, it is also good to note that the nationwide testing strategy changed in the early autumn. There are fewer COVID-19 tests being taken than in the spring and summer of this year, for example, and so there are likely to be more infections than the figures show. High infection rates are also reflected in the need for hospital care, which has remained at too high a level.
Third vaccinations to expand gradually in January - additional vaccinators are being sought, occupational health coming along
Third COVID-19 vaccinations are currently being given to those over the age of 60-years-old, those who are at risk of illness, those vaccinated at short intervals, those living in institutions and nursing homes, those caring for coronavirus patients and social and health care workers providing other emergency care. The vaccination interval has been shortened in Helsinki so that the third vaccination can be given 5 months after the second vaccination.
Third vaccinations for people under the age of 60 will begin in Helsinki as soon as possible, and no later than in January. For the third vaccinations, the process will start from the oldest to the youngest, as with the previous vaccinations. By the end of January, more than 200,000 Helsinki residents will have reached the five-month deadline from the second vaccination in healthy people aged 18-59. To avoid congestion, the appointments will be staggered and announced separately as soon as the appointments are opened for each age group.
Helsinki is continuing its efforts to increase the vaccination capacity. At present, about a hundred employees are vaccinating Helsinki residents every day. Vaccinators are constantly being recruited on the basis of purchases from private operators, as has been the case to date. Retired healthcare professionals have also been and are very important and welcome to carry out vaccination work in Helsinki. HUS (Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa) and the municipalities of Uusimaa appeal to all health care professionals, who, due to their life situation, can come to perform vaccinations for a few weeks or, otherwise, flexibly. Those interested are asked to send their contact information to: email@example.com and, at the same time, submit a request regarding the vaccination point where they would like to work. In Helsinki, vaccination points are located in Jätkäsaari, Kannelmäki, Malmi and Myllypuro.
In addition, in the municipalities of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, preparations are under way to include occupational health care in the distribution of vaccinations, and efforts are being made to start vaccinations as soon as possible.
Vaccinations are the best protection against serious illness
Among those who are unvaccinated, the incidence of coronavirus is currently very high and, almost invariably, younger people in hospital have not been vaccinated. Over the last 14 days, the incidence of infections of unvaccinated persons per 100,000 inhabitants is 1,059, almost three times the incidence of 306 regarding those who have received two doses of the vaccine.
COVID-19 vaccination is offered to everyone 12-years-old and older. Of those aged 12-years-old and over in Helsinki, 87 per cent have received the first dose, 83 per cent the second dose and 10 per cent the third dose. However, there are currently about 75,000 people over the age of 12-years-old who are eligible for vaccination, but remain unvaccinated. The city urges anyone who lacks vaccination protection to seek vaccination without delay. The first and second vaccinations are also available without an appointment at the Helsinki vaccination points and pop-up points.
The city has also launched a COVID-19 vaccination campaign on social media and public transport, specifically targeted at 16-29-year-olds. It would be important to further improve vaccination coverage in this age group.
The coronavirus situation in schools and daycare centres is being carefully managed
As the coronavirus situation has deteriorated in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, more infections have been reported in children and schoolchildren than before. However, children usually have mild symptoms, or are even asymptomatic. In schools, infections are prevented by, among other things, avoiding the mixing of groups and recommending the use of masks from the 6th grade onwards.
A lot of COVID-19 tests are currently being done on children. School children under the age of 12-years-old are being tested about one and a half times- twice as much as corresponding age groups. A test is recommended for children under 12-years-old if they are known to have been exposed and have symptoms suggestive of COVID-19. Symptomatic children should also be tested if there are unvaccinated persons over the age of 16-years-old in the family. The city reminds all age groups, both vaccinated and non-vaccinated, that a COVID-19 test should be taken when displaying symptoms.
One option is to take a home test in situations where the possibility of a COVID-19 infection is a consideration. If the home test is positive, a laboratory test should be taken. If the home test is negative and the child has even mild symptoms, they should stay at home and those at-risk should not visit them.
Consideration for the Christmas season
For many, the Christmas season is a time of calming down with loved ones. Everyone can, through their own responsible activities, strive to ensure that Christmas can be spent safely and in good spirits with loved ones. Those displaying symptoms should not take part in meet-ups.
During the festivities, the city reminds that, as with public events, private events in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area should not be held indoors for more than 20 people or they should be held in a facility where participants can be required to present a COVID-19 passport.
Vaccinations, mask use, contact reduction and hygiene measures are all important ways to limit the epidemic. As an additional means, the City has taken into use COVID-19 passports, instead of restrictions, for such operations in which it is possible.
See Helsinki's coronavirus info 15 December 2021
Photo: Virpi Velin