The Red Cross and the coronavirus

Three people wearing Red Cross vests at the coronavirus information desk at Helsinki Airport.
Photo: Anna Koponen / Suomen Punainen Risti

The Red Cross plays a special role in preparing for crisis situations. Right from the start, we monitored the development of the coronavirus epidemic in Finland and around the world, and reacted to the need for aid.

During the coronavirus crisis, the Red Cross provided help internationally and around Finland. In Finland, our trained volunteers helped people cope in a new situation.

We developed our activities as the need for aid changed. Our aid work supported and complemented the operations of the authorities, and our volunteers were supported by the employees of the Finnish Red Cross districts and headquarters.

Support for the coronavirus vaccinations

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Finland faced an exceptional situation where the aim was to vaccinate a large share of the population as quickly as possible. The authorities were responsible for the vaccinations, but the Finnish Red Cross was able to offer its support.

Hundreds of volunteers at dozens of locations assisted the authorities by guiding those coming to be vaccinated to the right place and by providing them with psychosocial and discussion support. Our volunteers with first aid skills also took part in monitoring the vaccinated for possible side effects.

Read the online news article on the topic

Food aid and assisting with errands

The Finnish Red Cross volunteers distributed food aid and assisted the elderly and those in risk groups by taking care of their grocery shopping and pharmacy visits.

The safety of those receiving and providing aid is of vital importance to us. To ensure safety, our volunteers always complied with the common Red Cross instructions and procedures.

Read about how it felt to become a volunteer during the coronavirus pandemic

Help for hospitals and patients

The Red Cross helped hospitals prepare for the epidemic by delivering triage units. This way, hospitals gained additional space for assessing the urgency of care.

Hospital districts were responsible for the costs of the triage units they ordered. The Red Cross assisted hospitals by transporting the tents from its logistics centre in Tampere and by putting them up with the help of employees and trained volunteers. Furthermore, the organisation provided an introductory training in the use of the tent.

At the hospitals’ request, volunteers also helped with patient guidance and instruction at hospital entrances if there was no hospital staff available for this purpose.

Blood donors were needed during the epidemic as well. The Finnish Red Cross Blood Service organised its activities in a way that made blood donation possible during the exceptional situation.

Presence online and via telephone

We supported vulnerable people without compromising the health of aid recipients or volunteers.

The Red Cross helpline provided discussion support for the worries and troubles caused by the coronavirus epidemic. More than a hundred trained psychosocial support volunteers around Finland answered the calls. The service was supported by LähiTapiola.

Thousands of trained volunteers in the Finnish Red Cross friend activities were even more active in keeping in touch with their friend pairs around Finland via telephone and other remote communications. We also increased our national online training and offered online support for family caregivers.

Furthermore, the Red Cross Youth Shelters supported young people via telephone and online. The Youth Shelters also offered temporary accommodation for symptomless young people as required. We also supported young people in the Sekasin chat service that received an increasing number of contacts during the coronavirus crisis.

Distributing correct information

Through its channels, the Finnish Red Cross actively distributed information produced by the authorities on preventing coronavirus infections. In spring 2020, we also produced the koronavirus.punainenristi.fi website to help our volunteers and people in need of information and assistance.

We also produced e.g. instructions for psychosocial support available for all online. Our trained volunteers provided advice in official coronavirus helplines and chats.

Red Cross volunteers distributed information about the coronavirus to passengers returning to Finland at Helsinki Airport. The purpose was to ensure that all returning passengers received information about the quarantine and other measures to prevent infection.

When most of the schools were closed, we offered remote Homework Help and free online learning materials to support remote learning.

Multilingual coronavirus project

The Organisations’ Multilingual and Multichannel Coronavirus Communications Coordination Project, a Finnish Red Cross initiative running until the end of 2022, aims to develop and support the coronavirus communications of organisations, reach as many multilingual target groups as possible and use the communications to impact people’s health behaviour in cooperation with our partner organisations.

The project produces as accessible coronavirus communications as possible for as many people as possible, in a language that they understand.

The project includes more than ten organisations, seven Finnish Red Cross districts and several other cooperation partners. It also acts as a conveyor of official communications (primarily from the National Institute for Health and Welfare THL) to organisations and multilingual target groups.

Shared communications based on cooperation strengthen the position and work of all coronavirus communications operators.

International aid

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, we were aware that epidemics would wreak havoc in countries that have poor or inadequate health services.

Often, the same countries are already suffering from the effects of poverty, insecurity, conflict or climate change.

Once the coronavirus started spreading, the most vulnerable people needed urgent help. They were at a greater risk of falling ill e.g. due to lack of information, poor hygiene and restricted access to healthcare.

The local Red Cross organisations play an important role in the fight against the coronavirus in support of the authorities. With the support of the Finnish Red Cross, thousands of volunteers have been trained in health, hygiene and epidemic prevention in Africa and Asia. This preparedness has been vital during the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus information and measures in Africa and Asia

In 2020, we directed EUR 2 million from the development cooperation funds of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland to fight the coronavirus in 12 countries: Afghanistan, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Zimbabwe and countries in the Sahel region.

The funds supported the work of the local Red Cross organisations. The aid has reached millions of people.

In 2021, we have directed a total of EUR 325,000 in coronavirus support to  Malawi, Kenya and Nepal.

Volunteers have provided information, supported the screening for disease cases, assisted people in home care and quarantine and provided psychosocial support to the infected and exposed people and volunteers.

The availability of hygiene products has been improved and coronavirus communications materials produced with our support.

Humanitarian aid to Lebanon, Greece and Turkey

We have also supported the relief projects of the International Red Cross with the support of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and through our Disaster Relief Fund. Aid has been granted to e.g. Kenya, Lebanon, Greece and Turkey.

In Lebanon, for example, we minimised the damage caused by the coronavirus, helped sick people receive care, distributed health information and improved the availability of clean water, sanitation and hygiene. Furthermore, the Red Cross distributed material aid to Lebanon.

During 2021, we will support the coronavirus vaccination operation of the International Red Cross in Kenya with funding from the EU. The project supports the distribution of coronavirus vaccines in the most vulnerable communities and enables preparedness for new waves of the disease.

During the pandemic, the Finnish Red Cross has also sent its own aid workers to coordinate the international aid operation.

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In Finland, the Red Cross helps in case of disasters and accidents, such as the coronavirus epidemic. Video: Suomen Punainen Risti
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The Red Cross has been able to help thousands of people during the coronavirus pandemic thanks to volunteers and donors. We warmly thank you for your help! Video: Suomen Punainen Risti
Multilingual coronavirus communications
Multilingual coronavirus communications
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