Omicron is now the predominant coronavirus variant in the Helsinki region

Omicron is now the predominant coronavirus variant in the Helsinki region

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus is spreading rapidly in the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS), says the district’s director of diagnostics. Lasse Lehtonen.

He said the variant – which is believed to be up to three times more contagious than the previous variant Delta – was spreading so fast that those infected are very likely to do so with current vaccination coverage.

Lehtonen said on Yle TV1’s breakfast program on Friday that he thought Omicron would be the prevailing variant of Covidia in the area. Shortly afterwards, the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat said that its share had exceeded 50 percent in the Helsinki region, when Omicron became the dominant variant.

Lehtonen said that people at risk of coronavirus infection should avoid close contact with people outside the household to avoid the virus.

Omicron was first detected in Finland about three weeks ago and appears to be spreading rapidly. Lehtonen tweeted on Sunday that Omicron was about seven per cent behind new Covid cases in the area, up from 0.6 per cent a week earlier.

Lehtonen told Yle that hospitals will face difficult times in the near future as the number of patients increases.

"Unfortunately, it looks like Christmas is going to be hard. There are more infections than ever before in Finland, and this is inevitably reflected in the need for hospital treatment." he said.

The story continues after the picture

Lasse Lehtonen, Director of Diagnostics at HUS.Antti Haanpää / General

Lehtonen added that the decisive factor in the situation is how well people’s vaccinations protect themselves from serious Covid cases caused by Omicron.

He believes the capacity of the intensive care unit is adequate, but increasing the number of people in need of intensive care means reducing resources for other ailments and situations. In addition, already stressed health care workers need to be transferred to the intensive care unit.

Brought home from school

According to Lehtonen, new cases are spreading from schools to homes, as coronavirus infections are spreading among children and young people.

At a Covid press conference held on Thursday by the Department of Social Affairs and Health and the Department of Health and Welfare (THL), experts suggested that transferring students to distance learning situations would be an option to curb the spread of Omicron.

Lehtonen reiterated similar sentiments, saying that reducing contact between children and young people would be necessary to prevent the spread of the variation, suggesting that schools could close early into Christmas.

Most schools in the area will close on Thursday, December 23, and are scheduled to continue after January 6.

Director of Strategy at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Pasi Pohjola, told Yle on Thursday night that the decisions On the involvement of Covid "emergency brake" – and the number of restrictions involved – must be done soon.

"In practice, restrictions on the size of gatherings will be further tightened by allowing for the closure of premises and the ban on gatherings. One quick way to do this would be to prevent the use of Covid passports as a means of circumventing regional restrictions." Pohjola suggested.

"Yes, we have to decide before Christmas which direction to go," he said.

Source: The Nordic Page