A group of international students of the University of Eastern Finland went on a privately organised trip to Saariselkä between 28 February and 4 March 2021. At least 20 of the participants have been since been diagnosed with COVID-19. Neither the University of Eastern Finland nor the Student Union of the University of Eastern Finland were involved in organising the trip.
“We took immediate action as soon as we were informed of the infections among students to identify those exposed as quickly as possible and, for our part, to cut off chains of transmission. Ordering students into quarantine will be done by the health authorities. The situation is very unfortunate, and we will do everything we can to keep infections under control,” Director of Administration Tuomo Meriläinen says.
The university is still investigating possible exposures on its campuses resulting from the trip. Some exposures are already known on the Kuopio Campus. As a precaution, the University of Eastern Finland’s Teacher Training School in Joensuu has moved all international student teachers to online mode of study until 19 March.
A total of 46 students from the university and the university of applied sciences attended the Saariselkä trip organised by a private tour operator. The university’s students from both the Kuopio and Joensuu campuses attended the trip. By 11 March, 20 coronavirus infections have been confirmed in Kuopio among people who went on the trip, or in connection with it. The health care services of the City of Kuopio have ordered all those who attended the trip into mandatory quarantine until 19 March, and to book an appointment for a COVID-19 test. People sharing a flat with those who attended the trip have been instructed to self-isolate and to book an appointment for a COVID-19 test.
The university’s Student and Learning Services learned about the planned trip earlier this year. The university does not have the authority to intervene in students’ leisure time activities, but students were repeatedly urged to abandon their travel plans due to the coronavirus situation. All international students were also invited to an info session held by an occupational physician, where they were instructed to avoid travelling also in Finland. The risks associated with travel in the current coronavirus situation were also explained. The Faculty of Health Sciences and Kuopio University Hospital stated that going on the trip is a deliberate risk and that travellers will not be given an opportunity to retake classes should they be ordered into quarantine as a result of the trip.
For further information, please contact:
Director of Administration Tuomo Meriläinen, tuomo.merilainen (at) uef.fi, tel. +358 40 355 2299
Katri Hartikainen, Occupational Health and Safety Manager, katri.hartikainen (at) uef.fi, tel. +358 50 356 4029