Agency: The ministry did not influence the removal of the face mask recommendations in April

Agency: The ministry did not influence the removal of the face mask recommendations in April

In Finland, there is a debate about the role of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in not issuing official instructions on the use of face masks to the public when the coronavirus epidemic tightened its grip in the spring.

Last week, he chaired the parliamentary group of the opposition National Coalition Party Kai Mykkänen called for a vote of confidence in the Minister for Social Affairs and Health, Krista Kiuru, (SDP) on his role in the matter.

On Monday, the director of the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) Markku Tervahauta, told Ilta-Sanomat that the agency wanted to give instructions on how to use the face mask in April, but the ministry told him that no advice was needed.

At the time, THL said it was unable to issue official instructions on the use of fabric masks because their safety could not be guaranteed.

Regardless of the agency, however, Tervahauta told Helsingin Sanomat in mid-April that everyone should wear masks.

The story continues after the picture.

Markku Tervahauta in May 2020.Yle

On Monday night, the ministry’s communications director Vivikka Richt tweeted on the ministry’s official Twitter account that its instructions on face masks were published through the National Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH) in early April.

Following this tweet, the ministry sent a link to the FIOH website, which showed that the institute’s face mask recommendations were published on April 3rd.

However, FIOH decided to change the information published on its website when the Ministry and THL stated that they did not issue official recommendations on the use of face masks to the public.

Instead, in a joint statement issued on April 18, THL and the ministry warned of the potential dangers of fabric masks. In a press release, masks can, in the worst case, increase the risk of infection and that the use of public equipment can lead to a false sense of security.

Agency advice on masks in April

According to screenshots taken on the FIOH website the previous day, April 17, the public was encouraged to wear face masks in some situations.

"The face mask should be used in situations where it is not possible to avoid close contact, such as in shops and public transport. A face mask can reduce the spread of airways in the environment, which also reduces the chance that asymptomatic carriers of the virus will spread," the website read at the time.

Just a few days after the screenshot was taken, FIOH’s instructions were removed from the site, and according to the screenshot, the agency’s original instructions were likely sent to their website for about a week.

Director General of FIOH Antti Koivula, said the ministry did not order the agency to remove instructions on the use of cloth masks.

"It didn’t work [the decision to remove it]. It was based on what I said in a previous interview with Yle that we wanted to be in line [with THL and the ministry]," Koivula said.

"Of course, matters are always discussed with the ministry, but we had no external influence," he said, adding that he made the decision to remove the recommendations from their site.

He said the only guidance the ministry received was a request for guidance on the proper use of masks and how the mask should be worn.

In mid-May, a working group led by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health published a report stating that widespread use of face masks had little or no effect in reducing the spread of upper respiratory tract infections.

Meanwhile, THL has since updated its recommendations the use of face masks in the public where states "Proper use of a face mask can reduce infections by preventing droplets from spreading into the environment."

Source: The Nordic Page

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