Finland cuts quarantine times as Covid pressure mounts

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The current 10-day quarantine period will in most cases be cut to five days. — Reuters pic
The current 10-day quarantine period will in most cases be cut to five days. — Reuters pic

HELSINKI, Jan 13 — Finland’s health authorities cut the recommended quarantine period for Covid-19 patients by up to half today, as the prime minister faced criticism for stepping back from virus policy as infections hit record levels.

The current 10-day quarantine period will in most cases be cut to five days, with people suffering symptoms advised to stay at home without seeking a laboratory test, public health body THL said.

The change was in response to testing services becoming overwhelmed in many places, with home-testing kits also widely selling out due to the surging infections.

“The dynamics of infection are faster with the Omicron variant,” THL senior physician Otto Helve told a press conference.

The change comes after Prime Minister Sanna Marin came under fire for announcing late last week that she was stepping back from coronavirus policy, delegating decision-making to a group of ministers headed by Health Minister Krista Kiuru.

“I have to make sure I also have time for other issues,” Marin told newspaper Helsingin Sanomat. 

On Tuesday, the prime minister’s move drew criticism from her principal coalition partner, Finance Minister Annika Saarikko.

“I would be so bold as to say that at the moment the corona situation is the largest and most complicated of society’s problems with an impact on many things,” Saarikko told the Uutissuomalainen newspaper.

The Nordic nation of 5.5 million has maintained some of the EU’s lowest incidence rates throughout the pandemic. But infections have surged by 105,000 over the last fortnight, nearly a third of its 360,000 total cases recorded since the start of the pandemic.

Today health ministry officials called on the public to regularly use home-testing kits if they suspect infection or exposure.

But at €4-€6 (RM19-RM29) per test, costs for users could quickly mount up, while tests have been widely sold out in recent weeks.

Last week, Health Minister Kiuru recommended twice-weekly testing for all schoolchildren, prompting the head of the country’s National Security Supply Agency to warn that procuring that number of tests would take “many weeks”. — AFP