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University staff angry that Covid teaching advice was ‘ignored’

University staff are moving towards confronting their leaders after the revelation that the government’s scientific advisers called for teaching to move online at the start of the academic year last month.



a sign in front of a building: Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA


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Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA

University and College Union members at the University of Sheffield are the latest to call an emergency meeting after lodging a formal grievance, joining branches at the universities of Birmingham, Leeds and Warwick in dispute with their leadership over the handling of coronavirus outbreaks.

Other campus staff represented by Unison are said to be angry at having to deal with threats and abuse from frustrated students trapped in isolation.

An estimated 110 UK universities have reported cases of Covid-19 outbreaks, with around 15,000 students and staff infected so far, since the term began just four weeks ago on some campuses.

The University of Nottingham alone has reported 1,500 active cases among students at the end of last week, out of its 35,000 students enrolled, along with 20 members staff. The week before just 400 cases had been reported.

But concern over staff and students continuing to have face-to-face teaching while infection rates are rising has turned to anger after the release of documents from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) committee, showing that three weeks ago it advised that all universities should revert to online teaching.



a sign in front of a building: The University of Nottingham reported 1,500 active cases among students at the end of last week.


© Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA
The University of Nottingham reported 1,500 active cases among students at the end of last week.

Sage’s package of measures to contain Covid-19 included a recommendation: “All university and college teaching to be online unless face-to-face teaching is absolutely essential,” until the prevalence of the virus subsides.

Jo Grady, the UCU’s general secretary, said: “Ministers were given clear recommendations on how to stem the spread of the virus before term started at the vast majority of universities. They could have taken swift and decisive action then and instructed universities to move their teaching online to mitigate against tens of thousands of students moving across the country.

“The chaos we see on campus and in halls of residence now is a direct result of ministers’ decision to ignore that advice and choose to put the health of university staff, students and local communities at risk.”

Grady said all universities should now move to online teaching where possible, as well as allowing students to be released from their accommodation and return home to study remotely if they wished.

Unison, which represents many campus support staff such as cleaners and security guards, said its members were “regularly risking their own safety to break up rowdy groups of students angry at lockdown restrictions”.

The union said some catering workers are clocking up 16-hour shifts to produce and deliver three meals a day to thousands of students isolating in their rooms, while cleaners were working extra hours to deep clean communal areas such as kitchens and corridors.

Ruth Levin, Unison’s senior national education officer, said: “If the ​testing system was working properly, healthy students wouldn’t

Monmouth University ‘super-spreader event’ led to 125 Covid cases on New Jersey campus

A “super-spreader event” near Monmouth University led to positive coronavirus tests for more than 100 students and forced the school into all-online classes, officials said Tuesday.

The outbreak was traced to a single off-campus private gathering that resulted in 125 positive Covid-19 cases among the West Long Branch school’s nearly 5,700 pupils, Monmouth spokeswoman Tara Peters told NBC News.

The university would not specify what kind of event it was or when exactly it occurred, only saying it was a “social gathering” that happened roughly two weeks ago.

Before the outbreak, about two-thirds of fall classes were online, about a tenth were in-person and the rest were hybrid online/in-person, according to Peters. Now all classes are being held remotely.

“Our Health Services staff estimate that about 125 cases were connected to that event, either through attendance at the event or subsequent spreading to others by individuals in attendance,” Peters said, adding that all of those “individuals are out of isolation and counted as recovered.”

In an open letter to campus on Friday, Monmouth President Patrick Leahy pleaded with students to follow health and safety protocols.

“It appears that this increase in cases among students was tied to an off-campus event hosted two weeks ago. An overwhelming majority of the recent cases we have seen can be traced back to this isolated super-spreader event,” Leahy said.

“I cannot emphasize enough the critical importance of compliance with Monmouth University Covid-19 protocols and State of New Jersey health and safety measures to effectively protect the Monmouth community.”

Woodrow Wilson Hall on Monmouth University's campus in 2017. (Seth Wenig / AP file)
Woodrow Wilson Hall on Monmouth University’s campus in 2017. (Seth Wenig / AP file)

Leahy’s statement came the same day that Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House coronavirus task force,said she feared private gatherings — and not mass, public events — are now leading to a renewed spread of the virus.

“We need to bring the same protocols that you follow when you’re in public into the home,” Birx said while touring the Broad Institute in Cambridge.

“People let down their guard when they’re with friends and family and they took off their masks and shared dinner inside and those become spreading events.”

As of Tuesday morning, more than 7.8 million Americans had been sickened by coronavirus and at least 216,000 have died from it, according to a running tally by NBC News.

However, with a recent resurgence of the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fears the death roll could reach 233,000 by the end of this month.

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Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden: Where they stand on COVID, education and more

Amid the tumult of the 2020 presidential campaign, one dynamic has remained constant: The Nov. 3 election offers voters a choice between substantially different policy paths.

President Donald Trump, like many fellow Republicans, holds out tax reductions and regulatory cuts as economic imperatives and frames himself as a conservative champion in the culture wars. The president has offered few details about how he would pull the levers of government in a second term. His most consistent argument focuses on stopping Democratic opponent Joe Biden and his party from pushing U.S. policy leftward.

Biden, for his part, is not the socialist caricature depicted by Trump. But he is every bit a center-left Democrat who frames the federal government as the force to combat the coronavirus, rebuild the economy and address centuries of institutional racism and systemic inequalities. The former vice president and U.S. senator also offers his deal-making past as evidence he can do it again from the Oval Office.

A look at where the rivals stand on key issues:

Economy, taxes

Low unemployment and a soaring stock market were Trump’s calling cards before the pandemic. While the stock market has clawed its way back after cratering in the early weeks of the crisis, unemploymen t stands at 7.9%, and the nearly 10 million jobs that remain lost since the pandemic began exceed the number that the nation shed during the entire 2008-2009 Great Recession.

Trump has predicted that the U.S. economy will rebound in the third and fourth quarters of this year and is set to take off like a “rocket ship” in 2021. He promises that a coronavirus vaccine or effective therapeutics will soon be available, allowing life to get back to normal. His push for a payroll tax cut over the summer was thwarted by stiff bipartisan opposition. But winning a second term — and a mandate from voters — could help him resurrect the idea.

First and foremost, Biden argues that the economy cannot fully recover until COVID-19 is contained. For the long-term recovery, he pitches sweeping federal action to avoid an extended recession and to address longstanding wealth inequality that disproportionately affects nonwhite Americans.

His biggest-ticket plans include a $2 trillion, four-year push to eliminate carbon pollution in the U.S. energy grid by 2035 and a new government health insurance plan open to all working-age Americans (with generous subsidies). He proposes new spending on education, infrastructure and small businesses, along with raising the national minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Biden would cover some but not all of the new costs by rolling back much of the 2017 GOP tax overhaul. He wants a corporate income tax rate of 28% (lower than before but higher than now) and broad income and payroll tax hikes for individuals with more than $400,000 of annual taxable income. All that would generate an estimated $4 trillion or more over 10 years.

Biden frames immigration as an economic matter as well. He wants to expand legal immigration slots and offer a

Medscape Education Partners with Emory University to Tackle Worsening Doctor Burnout in The Age of COVID

NEW YORK, Oct. 13, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — With national reports showing intensifying levels of burnout and loneliness among physicians, Medscape Education is launching a new series, The Doctor’s Dilemma of Overcoming Burnout, focused on giving healthcare professionals (HCPs) evidence-based tools to alleviate mental and emotional distress during the pandemic and beyond.

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http://medscape.org/collection/doctors-dilemma

Developed in partnership with Emory University and other institutions, the five-episode series, free to physicians and other health care professionals (HCPs), combines video storytelling, clinician interviews and evidenced-based approaches from health experts, including Cognitive-Based Compassion Training (CBCT), Community Resiliency Model (CRM) therapy and techniques from contemplative sciences, such as self-care and mindfulness.

In the most recent Medscape poll on physicians’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly two-thirds of doctors reported worsening burnout, up from 42% in early 2020, with female and GenX physicians (those born between 1965 and 1980) reporting the highest levels.

One in four physicians reported problems with relationships, and others indicated higher stress due to COVID-19-related loss of income. Reports have documented concerning levels of depression among doctors, even prior to the pandemic, due to large patient volumes, long hours, and challenges with electronic medical records and overwhelming bureaucratic demands.

Medscape has found that fewer than half (43%) of physicians have access to workplace programs to help them cope with grief and stress.

“When doctors and nurses suffer mentally, health care, hospitals, and patients do, too,” said Hansa Bhargava, M.D., Senior Medical Director, Medscape, and moderator and co-creator of The Doctor’s Dilemma. “We know that hospitals are taking notice of this issue, but there are still too few programs available. We have to act now, as a medical community, to help ourselves. It is a crisis for many of us and there is growing research and scientific evidence that CBCT, CRM and other techniques can make a difference.”

The series delivers information on tools that doctors can quickly learn and realistically implement. Video vignettes depict daily struggles contributing to the problem, and expert insights and solutions address what real-life HCPs can do, all with the goal of reducing burnout or preventing it from escalating to depression, anxiety or other mood disorders.

The series features:

  • Linda Grabbe, PhD, Clinical Assistant Professor at the Woodruff School of Nursing, Emory University, and developer of the Community Resiliency Model
  • Lobsang Tenzin Negi, PhD, former Tibetan monk and Executive Director of the Compassion Center at Emory University, on CBCT techniques, to decrease cortisol and other inflammatory markers
  • Alanna Levine, M.D. and Anthony Chang, M.D., on pivoting, growth and changes that can help physicians find career fulfillment
  • David Lawson, M.D., an oncologist, on his experiences with Cognitive-Based Compassion Training to defeat burnout
  • Anthony Mazzarelli, M.D. and Stephen Trzeciak, M.D., authors of Compassionomics: The Revolutionary Scientific Evidence That Caring Makes A Difference.

“We often don’t think of doctors diving into methods such as self-compassion, gratitude practices or mindfulness trainings,” said Dr. Bhargava, “but younger physicians and female physicians’ no longer want to hide stoically behind the white coat.

Trinity College extends remote instruction through end of week, reports 45 recent COVID cases

HARTFORD — Trinity College students and professors will stick with remote learning through the end of the week, after a spike in new coronavirus infections brought the school’s caseload to 45.

As of Monday, the small liberal-arts school of about 2,100 undergraduate students was still reporting the 45 active cases, all discovered within the last week.

Trinity officials said the move to stick to remote instruction through Friday, Oct. 16 is intended to “reduce circulation” and get the college “back on track and continue the semester as we’d all anticipated,” in a message to students Saturday.

The 45 cases are mostly affecting “clusters of students who live in off-campus housing and don’t appear to be diffusely spread across campus,” the message said.

Most of those students are in isolation or soon would be, Saturday’s message said.

Around 10 students elected to return home after becoming infected, the school said.

Health experts have advised against that as cases have emerged at colleges and universities around the country, since it can lead returning students to bring the virus back with them to their home communities.

Trinity raised its COVID-19 alert status to orange last week in response to the new cases, forcing students to go to remote-learning only through Monday before extending remote instruction on Saturday.

The heightened alert level comes with additional restrictions.

Students are banned from leaving campus for non-essential reasons. Gatherings of any size are prohibited. Students living off-campus are not allowed to visit dorms and vice-versa.

The school has also closed two athletic facilities except for COVID-19 testing, and the library is open by-appointment-only.

The University of New Haven, in West Haven, has also suspended classes through the end of the week and raised its alert level to orange after its caseload spiked to 97 active COVID-19 infections over the weekend.

Fairfield University has also raised its alert level to orange and has directed off-campus students to quarantine in their homes after 61 new cases emerged there last week.

It’s unclear whether the school recorded new cases over the weekend, because the university’s dashboard is updated on Tuesdays and Fridays each week, rather than daily.

Sacred Heart University, also in Fairfield, reported no new cases on Sunday. The university’s number of active COVID-19 infections has fallen to 107— 72 off-campus, 34 on-campus, and one case among employees.

Around the rest of the state:

Quinnipiac University in Hamden reported 16 new cases in the past week as of Monday, bringing the school’s cumulative total to 21 cases this semester.

Western Connecticut State University, which has campuses in Danbury and Waterbury, reported one new case – a commuter – last week, bringing the semester total to seven cases.

Southern Connecticut State University, in New Haven, reported seven new cases last week. Six of the new cases were among commuter students, one was a university employee.

The University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford reported one new case, a commuter student, between Oct. 3 and Friday, Oct. 9.

Central Connecticut State

Sam Houston State University’s new Conroe campus adjusts to COVID guidelines

This is the first semester that the new Sam Houston State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Conroe has welcomed students to campus, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the year is not starting as anticipated.

The College of Osteopathic Medicine received its pre-accreditation status in September of last year, which allowed the college to start recruiting new students. The school’s first class is 75 students but in about two years the school plans to double that number to meet its full capacity of 150 students.

As the COVID-19 pandemic made its way into Montgomery County, Sam Houston State University began to plan for changes to the new year, keeping in mind all the requirements their students will have to meet to become medical practitioners. Back in March, faculty were asked to work remotely and the school began to plan for a year that looked very different from what was originally planned.


“At first, students had limited time in the building but we felt very strongly that their experiential learning, their lab learning, we needed them in the building to do that, we needed them with their faculty to do that,” said Mari Hopper, associate dean for Biomedical Sciences at the campus.

In order to bring the students to campus safely for their experiential learning, the class was divided into four groups that rotated into the building throughout the day to keep the population in the building low. Before students even arrived, the school put together a video message for them that outlined the expectations in place for being in the building (masks, hand washing, social distancing, etc) with a message from the dean. Classes started on Aug. 10 as planned.

Portions of the classes that were not lab-based are being offered through remote learning. Students can access that work through Blackboard. While some of it is synchronous learning, students accessed it while it was happening, much of it was asynchronous, so they could access it on their own time.

Within the four groups that met together, students were split into even smaller groups of five and six to study and practice together with self-directed work.

“We also recognize that students, frankly, were in need of learning support,” Hopper said. “Those small groups provided the opportunity to collaborate with their peers, and medical students really need and request that.”

The groups also help meet the students’ need for social interactions in a safe space. As of Oct. 7, Hopper said the college had not had any cases of COVID-19 in its students. Students are self-monitoring for symptoms at home and before they come to campus they sign an attestation that they are not ill. When they get to the lab their temperature is taken before they can enter.

In response to the pandemic, the school created a student response team for the possibility of a student becoming ill. The team, Hopper said, made of clinicians and faculty, isn’t there to treat

Education in the Age of COVID

MIDLAND, Pa., Oct. 12, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Join the online magazine, The Incline and PA Cyber on October 14, 2020 as we host a virtual panel of educators discussing strategies and tips on how to make the 2020-2021 school year the best it can be. The panel will provide opportunities to learn from a collection of innovative educators, representing various styles of education and take questions from the audience regarding the issues that schools, teachers, students, and parents are facing right now.

If you are a parent, you know this school year has been anything but normal. You constantly work toward the successes. And you certainly know the difficult journey that comes with navigating the details of schooling during this pandemic. It is likely that today’s “new normal” has brought some version of virtual learning into your student’s life. Our panel intends to provide some useful tips to make this school year better for parents, students, and other educators.

“At PA Cyber, we say ‘The Learning Never Stops.’ We are proud of the ways we have been able to continue our outstanding teaching, student support and extracurricular activities throughout this pandemic,” said Brian Hayden, CEO of PA Cyber. “Our families tell us how important it is to have some stability in their kids’ lives, especially these days.”

Wednesday’s virtual panel will be hosted by Colin Deppen, local director of The Incline and will be joined by: 

Macon Finley, Head of The Ellis School: Pittsburgh’s “leading age 3-12 private school dedicated to the education of girls.” The school offers both online and in-person instruction options.
Randy Seely, Pennsylvania Department of Education Charter Division Chief: Oversees 500 public school districts and more than 170 public charter schools.
Brian Hayden, CEO of The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School: Mr. Hayden’s team of education professionals serves more than 11,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade from all over the state of Pennsylvania.
Carl Kurlander, Senior Lecturer, University of Pittsburgh: An educator, screenwriter and the Founding Producer of The Pittsburgh Lens Center for Creativity which is a project focused on multimedia tools.

The panel’s discussion topics: 

  • School socialization in the age of COVID
  • Managing the transition from brick and mortar to online learning
  • Common technology and access hurdles
  • Setting up a productive workspace for your student(s)

To register for this event visit http://bit.ly/PAcyber.

Contact: Jim Christiana, 412-974-6016, [email protected]

SOURCE The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber)

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Cardiff University Covid support ‘too little too late’

Ellie CooperImage copyright
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‘It feels like I’ve paid £9,000 for five new friends and a couple of Zoom classes,’ says Ellie Cooper

A student who is self-isolating at Cardiff University has said coronavirus support feels “too little too late”.

Ellie Cooper, 19, is a first year International Relations student and is self-isolating with four others after a flatmate tested positive.

She said that four out of six flats in her student accommodation block are isolating due to positive cases.

Cardiff University said it was “deeply concerned” to learn of students’ experiences.

  • Wales close to coronavirus tipping point, FM says
  • More than 100 primary school pupils self-isolating

Emails, seen by BBC Wales, sent to students by the university on Sunday, said a mobile testing unit, run by Public Health Wales (PHW), will operate at Talybont student accommodation from Monday.

It also said a university screening service for those without symptoms would begin on Tuesday and offered students a free laundry service and £20 voucher to spend in the “student marketplace”.

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Google

Image caption

Students at the Talybont South halls are having to isolate

But Ms Cooper, from Taunton, Somerset, said she felt “left in the dark” about the spread of cases in student accommodation.

She said she was unable to use the university’s coronavirus screening service last week as she was not showing symptoms, but university staff and NHS Test and Trace have told her to self-isolate.

“They should’ve had this information in place earlier, it is too little too late. So we wouldn’t have had to panic and go and look for other support,” she said.

“They should’ve known we would get corona, even if you didn’t go out lots. People interact all the time here, just going to the laundry, or at the gym,” she said.

University ‘deeply concerned’

Ms Cooper said isolating in her accommodation has been a “curve-ball”.

“All I’m doing is sitting in my room, it feels like I’ve paid £9,000 for five new friends and a couple of zoom classes,” she said.

“Our tiny kitchen has two barely functioning fridges and a radiator that doesn’t turn off. It feels like you’re dying in a tiny space.”

A Cardiff University spokesperson said: “We recognise that this is an extremely difficult and challenging time for all our students – especially those in our residences experiencing life away from home, often for the very first time.

“Whilst we’re unable to comment on an individual case, we are deeply concerned to learn of their experience.”

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Utah COVID Cases Rise, University Hospital ICU at 95 Percent Capacity

The intensive care unit at the University of Utah Health hospital has reached 95 percent capacity, according to Dr. Emily Spivak, associate professor of medicine, division of infectious diseases at the university.



Employees at Spectrum Solutions assembling COVID-19 saliva test kits on September 21 in Draper, Utah. The intensive care unit (ICU) at the University of Utah Health hospital was reported to have reached 95 percent on Thursday, while average daily new cases across the state were on an upward trend in the past two weeks.


© George Frey/Getty Images
Employees at Spectrum Solutions assembling COVID-19 saliva test kits on September 21 in Draper, Utah. The intensive care unit (ICU) at the University of Utah Health hospital was reported to have reached 95 percent on Thursday, while average daily new cases across the state were on an upward trend in the past two weeks.

The hospital provides care for residents in Utah as well as “residents of five surrounding states in a referral area encompassing more than 10 percent of the continental U.S.,” according to its LinkedIn profile.

Speaking at the state’s weekly press conference on Thursday, Dr. Spivak said: “Our hospital is getting full. Our ICU is getting full. It was 95 percent full this morning.”

“As a physician, as a mother and a concerned citizen, I plead with you, wear a mask at all times out of your home.”

The chief executive officer at the University of Utah Health, Dr. Michael Good, said at a Tuesday briefing: “We began in early September seeing this dramatic increase in the number of new coronavirus cases reported each day.

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“Hospital trends across the state, and here at University Hospital, [are] showing increasing hospitalization for coronavirus.

“The increase in the number of deaths is just now starting to turn up…unfortunately, the hospitalization, as measured by the number of people in the hospital, continues to increase.

“Fortunately, we’ve seen a little bit of a leveling off in those that are in the ICU. So, there still is this general trend upward, but with a suggestion of some leveling off in the ICU.”

When questioned at the Thursday briefing about whether more restrictions will be implemented in the state, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert told residents to “wait and see.” Herbert is expected to meet with the state’s COVID-19 Unified Command force and legislative leaders next week to discuss which restrictions are working and which are not.

Gallery: These 11 States Now Have the Worst COVID Outbreaks in the U.S. (Best Life)

Confirmed cases in Utah are approaching nearly 82,000, with 501 reported deaths, as of Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

Average daily new cases in the states were on an upward trend in the latest two-week period from September 25 to October 8. The average count began rising sharply from early September, after declining from mid-July and flattening out from early August, according to data compiled by JHU.

Infections were reported to have spread from the state’s younger population to the older residents, according to state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn.

Across the state, 73 percent of all ICU hospital beds are occupied, compared to 54.5 percent of all non-ICU beds, according to the latest figures published on the Utah Department of Health

COVID and ice hockey: outbreaks chill Nordic national pastime

GOTHENBURG, Sweden (Reuters) – Health authorities in Sweden and Finland are looking into a series of COVID-19 outbreaks on ice hockey teams that are believed to be one of the drivers of a sharp increase in new cases in the two hockey-loving countries.

The day after Swedish ice hockey team BIK Karlskoga defeated Vasteras in a game in late September, one of its players complained of a fever. Three days later, half of Karlskoga’s players and staff had tested positive for COVID-19 along with six players on Vasteras.

“I felt the earth shake beneath my feet when we got the results back. I thought maybe three or four players were infected and that it would be enough to isolate them,” BIK Karlskoga manager Torsten Yngveson told Reuters.

The club shut down completely for two weeks, disrupting preparations just as the hockey season was kicking into full swing. All the players and staff have since recovered.

The two Nordic countries are now jointly investigating why hockey teams appear more affected by the coronavirus than other sports. Both countries enjoyed relatively calm summers in terms of cases before the resurgence last month. Sweden’s Health Agency singled out hockey as a factor.

“Sports, especially ice hockey, seem to be very affected right now,” Anders Tegnell, the chief epidemiologist of Sweden’s public health agency, said in a news conference late last month.

Sweden, whose soft-touch strategy for containing the virus has gained global attention, registered 919 new cases on Friday, its highest daily total since June, while Finland registered 235, one of its highest daily tolls since the pandemic began.

The neighbouring countries have been at opposite ends of the pandemic spectrum, with Sweden one of Europe’s hardest-hit nations while Finland, which adopted tougher restrictions, has had fewer deaths. Yet they have the hockey-linked outbreaks in common.

The extent of the problem has been difficult to gauge, the Swedish health agency said, as players, of which there are about 135,000 registered across Sweden and Finland, are mostly young and may experience few or no symptoms from COVID-19.

Cramped changing rooms and bulky equipment that forces players to change at venues are highlighted as probable main causes for the outbreaks, but the damp and cold climate at indoor hockey rinks is also being scrutinized.

“Obviously the fact that it’s played on ice is having an impact – it’s likely that the virus preserves better in the cold. Also the warmer air rises and there is heavy ventilation at the rink,” said Lasse Lehtonen, head of healthcare diagnostics in the Helsinki region.

Reporting by Johan Ahlander in Gothenburg, Sweden, additional reporting by Tarmo Virki, in Helsinki, Finland; Editing by Niklas Pollard and Paul Simao

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