The Finnish media claims tens of Finns were infected with COVID-19 in Estonia – even though two Finns brought it with them from Finland

The Finnish public broadcasting, YLE, is trying to claim tens of Finns were infected with the novel coronavirus – or COVID-19 – while in Estonia; however, the group of Finns included two of their countrymen who brought the virus over from Finland.

In an article, published on 7 August, YLE says that tens of Finns were infected with the novel coronavirus in Estonia while attending a private event, and most of the participants have returned to Finland. The Finnish Health Board has been in contact with the participants and most of them have been placed in quarantine.

According to the Finnish public broadcasting, the event happened in Estonia between 31 July and 2 August. The article admits that two of the Finns – from the capital, Helsinki – had COVID-19 – even during the event, and they were taken to a hospital in Tallinn, the Estonian capital.

The problem with the report is, the YLE article’s headline says, “Tens of Finns infected with the coronavirus while on trip to Estonia”, and the tone of the article strongly hints as if it were the Estonians who infected the Finns, not that the two Finns who brought the virus with them to Estonia infected the rest of their group.

Yle is the Finnish public broadcasting. Photo by Yle.

Triggering an information war

The Estonian-Finnish author, Imbi Paju, asked on Facebook whether people have started to spread hate based on the virus. “In the YLE news, they’ve turned facts upside down, as if these 80 Finns had gotten the virus from Estonia, even though they had two Finnish carriers among them who brought it from Finland,” she said.

To this, an Estonian journalist, Lauri Laugen, replied that “the good old Baltnews already screamed that the Estonians are sick and infecting the Finns”. Baltnews is a Kremlin-backed “news” organisation designed to discredit the Baltics, which Russia seems to look at as its protectorate that has escaped its reign due to looking to the west rather than the east.

The Baltics were illegally occupied by the Soviet Union, the predecessor of the Russian Federation, and the Kremlin propaganda has always tried to discredit Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the hopes of restoring the its occupation of these countries. Laugen says in a further comment that the headlines of Baltnews are similar to school bullying.

Laugen also added to Estonian World that if a Finnish media outlet’s headline says, “Tens of Finns infected with the virus in Estonia”, then it suggests that Estonia is a massive coronavirus pocket and no one is mentioning that the Finns themselves brought the virus with them and then infected each other.

Paju points out that it’s an information war and states that she wouldn’t have shared the YLE article, “but already the headline is misleading and I have acquaintances who want to come to Estonia, responsible people, and it’s sad that they’re being scared like this”.

Imbi Paju. Photo by Erlend Staub.

Ferry passengers should monitor their condition

The YLE article admits the event was attended by only a few Estonians, but then continues on how people in the group were infected and over half of the infected are from Helsinki. “The participants were from 14 different counties,” it says.

“The incident is an example of how the disease can spread quickly across the different areas of Finland,” the head of the Finnish Health Board, Mika Salminen, told YLE. “Even with mild symptoms, one should not attend public events, go to work or move in public places for anything other than essential needs.”

According to YLE, most of the people who were exposed to the virus returned to Finland around 2-3 August on different ferry lines, using Eckerö Lines, Tallink Silja and Viking Line. People who travelled aboard these ships at the time have been advised to monitor their condition.

Cover: Finland and Estonia are close neighbours. Map by Wikipedia.

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