The opinions expressed herein represent the views of the undersigned only acting as private individuals and members of the scientific community. The opinions of the undersigned do not represent the views of their employer, research community, or workplace. Signatures should not be construed as evidence of the views of the signatory's employer on the management of the coronavirus crisis.
Finland has kept the COVID-19 epidemic under control to date. The timely restrictions imposed have prevented our healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed and spared us from thousands of deaths.
Now we have come to a watershed in the epidemic. The path we choose to take will determine our future for years to come. The current policy of our Government is mitigation, but Finland has another choice: we can align ourselves with international partners and choose the path of suppression to eliminate this virus.
The undersigned strongly encourage the Government to take resolute action to suppress this pandemic. Eliminating the virus represents the most scientifically sound strategy in terms of public health and economics alike. We advocate that our Government should adopt this strategy at once.
The suppression strategy is data-driven, supported by both leading scientific research and practical experience from other countries. We must not ignore this wealth of data and experience, and we do so at our peril.
COVID-19 can be suppressed: the epidemic has been successfully halted in several countries, which have then been able to keep the incidence of new cases under control. Countries such as South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, Austria, Greece, and Iceland have all adopted a strategy of suppression in favor of mitigation.
Thanks to restrictive measures, the pandemic in Finland has been mostly within our control during the past two months. We now have a precious window of opportunity that we must not squander. This is a decisive moment in the history of our country.
Our goal now must be rapidly and firmly to suppress the number of new cases to zero as soon as possible. By all accounts from other countries and given invaluable cooperation from our citizens - this is feasible. When we reach this goal, new infections must be closely monitored for an estimated two weeks. During this time, we must observe precautions such as border closures and quarantines. We expect that with the appropriate stringent measures, the virus could be eradicated from Finland in five weeks. A low number of infections will enable rapid detection, tracing, and containment of individual cases, including isolating chains of infections. Like other countries that have adopted this strategy and are exiting lockdown, this heightened surveillance will afford us to prevent any resurgence of the virus and critically, protect our healthcare capacity. We should carefully review the evidence-based strategies of countries that have successfully demonstrated suppression of COVID19, and adopt equivalent measures that enable us to do the same Finland.
No country has escaped the economic impact of this pandemic, and we must be realistic about this. Thus, we encourage a long-term vision that protects public health, which is central to our economy, rather than mitigation, which will only introduce uncertainty in the population, and weaken the advantage we have worked so hard to attain. The global economic crisis will only continue to grow broader and deeper, and ultimately we may be faced with a tidal wave of unemployment and bankruptcies reminiscent of the early 1990s.
Our international partners have demonstrated that normality can be achieved once again when coronavirus has been successfully eliminated, and we continue to observe precautions. The risk of infection in ordinary interactions becomes minimal when the number of active infections has been brought down close to zero. Importantly, this will afford protection also to the most vulnerable groups in society. People will once again feel confident in going out to dine and to shop, the excess pressure on the healthcare system will be relieved, and trust in the Finnish economy will be restored.
In the near future, countries that have successfully eliminated the virus will likely establish 'green zones' between which travel will be possible with fewer restrictions. This group will encompass a significant portion of the global economy, and failure to be included would prove an extremely costly mistake. It is vital that our exit strategy is evidence-based.
The economic and human costs will be exceedingly high if we choose only to mitigate, to slow down the spread of the epidemic, and to accept the current level of new infections. There is already evidence of staff shortages in intensive care. Each and every infection carries the risk of hospitalization, long-term or permanent organ damage, and, at worst, dying of suffocation in an intensive-care ward without the chance of even saying goodbye to loved ones. We also do not know the long-lasting impacts of COVID19 infection on human health.
With the current measures of mitigation, our country is sentenced to extensive restrictions for the foreseeable future. With a vaccine or disease-modifying therapy possibly still years away, this is an untenable situation.
Societies that have suppressed the pandemic enjoy considerably greater freedoms and prosperity than ones where the virus remains a constant presence. Not only is eliminating the virus consistent with the precautionary principle, but it is also the only ethically sustainable path. Medical ethics and human rights dictate that lives be saved. Not that deaths be postponed.
Suppression is a realistic exit strategy, a genuine way out of our current economic and social standstill. We propose that Finland immediately adopts a full-scale policy of suppression.