Thursday. 01.12.2022

Helsinki warns of increased Covid-19 cases among Somali community

Nearly 200 cases have been identified to date, which translates to 1.8% of the somaly-speaking community. The average incidence among all the residents of Helsinki is 0.2%.
Puhos shopping center, in East Helsinki. Photo:

The City of Helsinki warned on Tuesday about a rise in coronavirus (koronavirus, in Finnish) infections diagnosed among the members of the Somali-speaking community.

According to a press release, nearly 200 cases have been identified to date, which translates to 1.8 percent of the Somali community in the capital city. This incidence is especially high when compared with the 0.2% average among all the Helsinki residents.

The city of Helsinki emphasizes in its release that "the rate of infections among Helsinki's Somali-speaking community has quickly begun to rise." Local authorities are afraid that the spread of the virus among the Somalis in the capital city may have a similar development as in Stockholm (Sweden), where this community has hard hit by the virus.

Members of minority-language communities have been taken into consideration in the response to the coronavirus crisis.

Multilingual instructions

In fact, the Helsinki-Uusimaa hospital district (HUS) already warned on 6 April of the detection of infections among the immigrant population in the metropolitan area. Both the City of Helsinki and HUS hospitals have produced and distributed information in several languages, as well as made multilingual instructions videos.

Among other things, the material explains how to avoid close contact, stay at home in quarantine, and what to do if someone suspects they might be infected. Information has also been shared with day care centres and schools, as well as via youth counsellors engaging in outreach work.

Doctors, nurses and other professionals from the minority-language communities have been included in efforts to track the rate of infection in Helsinki, in order to better understand the spread of Covid-19 and the reasons behind the chain of infection.

"Despite these measures, however, the number of infections within these communities –and the Somali-speaking community in particular– has continued to grow," the City of Helsinki regrets.

Helsinki Mayor: 'very worrying'

Stopping that trend is now vital for a community whose members may sometimes have a harder time meeting safety guidelines.

City Councilor Suldaan Said Ahmed (from the Left Alliance) explained to Helsingin Sanomat that Somali people are often employed in sectors where teleworking is more complicated. And they tend to live in large families, sometimes with several generations sharing a home. For this reason, the situation of the elderly is of particular concern.

Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori also expressed concern:

“I find the recent spread of infection among minority-language communities very worrying. The situation demands enhanced teamwork, continued development of multilingual services and effective targeted communications. We have entered into discussions with the Finnish Somali League about new measures to improve the situation. We also need to boost our cooperation within the entire metropolitan area, as this situation is most likely not limited to Helsinki,” says Vapaavuori in a press release.

“HUS has previously identified the need to clarify our communications and reach out to the immigrant communities. We have increased the amount of material that is available in various languages and formats, video included. It is of paramount importance that communications and advice are available to everyone in Finland, by the means that reach them best,” says HUS’ CEO Juha Tuominen.

Helsinki warns of increased Covid-19 cases among Somali community