Half of Lapland coronavirus cases found in visitors

A view of the Levi Black slalom course in Kittila, Lapland, Finland, November 11, 2016. (Lehtikuva/ Martti Kainulainen/Reuters)
Half the coronavirus cases in Lapland in the past two weeks have been detected in visitors from outside the region, according to the Lapland Hospital District.

The Pihjalalinna doctor’s surgery in Levi has carried out three times more coronavirus tests during the school skiing holidays than during normal periods. Those tested include schoolchildren from southern Finland who had been exposed to the coronavirus before travelling north for the holidays.

Kolari Health Centre carried out 350 coronavirus tests last week, around a hundred more than in a typical week, said the municipality’s chief doctor Ulla Ylläsjärvi.

But Lapland Hospital District’s infectious disease expert Markku Broas said that although the current incidence of coronavirus in Lapland was high, all infections had been traced and no mass exposures had been detected.

Lack of foreign visitors reduces accidents

While domestic tourists have been linked to a rise in coronavirus cases, one doctor said a drop in foreign visitor numbers had reduced the number of injuries requiring medical treatment.

There have been around 300 injuries related to winter sports in Levi this season, while Ylläs has seen around 170.

“They may not be used to snowy surfaces or have never even seen snow. With the worst luck, you can break your leg as soon as you step off the airport bus,” Pihjalalinna’s service manager Tanja Hänninen said.

Katja Kuusimäki, chief doctor at Medi Ylläs, said the resort had seen a similar number of accidents when compared to previous years. The number of serious head injuries had fallen in recent years as helmet use grew, she said.

Finland’s very first case of coronavirus was detected in a visitor to Lapland in January last year, when a female tourist visiting from Wuhan sought medical treatment in Ivalo.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Arctic Tourism & the Pandemic podcast, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Jobless huskies in Arctic Finland travelling south for work as COVID-19 puts breaks on winter season, Yle News

Denmark/Greenland: Greenland authorities buoyed by high demand for COVID-19 vaccine, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: Iceland institutes new COVID-19 border measures, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Norway extends border closure with Finland due to pandemic, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Norway closes borders over fears of virus, but exempts Russian fishermen from severely infected border region, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Swedes caught in Norway border limbo, Radio Sweden

United States: Alaska politicians send Trudeau letter saying they’re “shocked” over Canada’s COVID-19 cruise ship ban, Eye on the Arctic

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