Finland's health authorities reported on Thursday that "approximately 400 laboratory-confirmed cases of the new coronavirus (Covid-19)" have been detected throughout the country.
According to the National Agency for Health and Welfare (THL, in its Finnish acronym), this figure is based on laboratory confirmed cases figures collected through direct communication with health care districts. In other words, those are the cases of people who tested positive reported by the hospital districts.
THL does not explain in its last report why the number of reported cases is not exact but "approximate." To date, the Finnish health authority had been reporting exact numbers (359 cases last Wednesday and 319 cases on Tuesday).
Also, the number of coronavirus (koronavirus, in Finnish) cases reported is significantly low because in Finland only a small percentage of people with symptoms are tested. When infection is suspected, people are requested to stay at home isolated and samples are "primarily taken from patients with severe respiratory symptoms," says THL.
Real number may be 30 times higher
People with mild symptoms and those returning from abroad will be tested only if a physician considers it necessary. This leaves out of the count people who may be infected but probably will never know unless they become seriously ill. Markku Tervahauta, Director of THL, said last Sunday that the real number of cases may be 20 to 30 times higher.
In addition, THL has just announced a major change in the way it keeps track of infections. According to the information published in its website, "In the future, case numbers will be based solely on figures obtained through the Registry of Infectious Diseases."
This means that until now THL has collected data on laboratory-confirmed coronavirus infections by communicating directly with hospital districts. But from 19 March, data will be collected directly from the Registry of Infectious Diseases, where hospitals must first report.
THL admits that introducing this obligation for hospitals to report to the registry first may cause "delays" as well as "regional variation."
The difference is evident and it could complicate the updated monitoring of the infection figures: for example, today, 19 March, with the old system of counting the official number of infections reported is "approximately 400." But the Registry of Infectious Diseases has been notified of only 304 cases.Number of cases recorded in the Registry of Infectious Diseases, by region. Source: THL.