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World News

Finland says pandemic spread points to "accelerating phase"

A medical worker wearing a protective suit and a mask takes a swab sample for a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test at a drive-through testing station in Salo, Finland August 18, 2020. Lehtikuva/Jussi Nukari via REUTERS/Files

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland warned on Thursday the COVID-19 pandemic was expanding again more rapidly in the country, after several months of relative calm, and was heading in an “alarming” direction.

Finland’s 14-day cumulative number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants remained among the lowest in Europe at 15.5, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control data showed on Wednesday.

But Finnish authorities said it was disquieting that the number of new cases over the latest two weeks until Sunday had doubled to 798 from 387 in the previous two weeks.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health said several signs could be seen of the epidemic speeding up again in the country.

“The rise in incidence rate, rising share of positive cases among all samples, increasing difficulties in tracing sources of infection and chains of infections becoming more common all anticipate a transition to an accelerating phase in the epidemic,” it said in a statement.

Around 50% of new cases had been detected among under 30-year-olds, the ministry added.

Finland’s public health authority THL expanded its mask recommendation from crowded public transport also to all public indoor spaces and public events in regions where the epidemic is speeding up.

“The direction is alarming,” THL’s Chief Physician Taneli Puumalainen told reporters.

By Wednesday, Finland’s COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the epidemic totalled at 343 and cases at 9,288.

Reporting by Anne Kauranen; Editing by Toby Chopra, William Maclean

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