University of Oulu

Lauri Laukkanen, Sanna Lahtinen, Janne Liisanantti, Timo Kaakinen, Ari Ehrola, Lasse Raatiniemi, Early impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and social restrictions on ambulance missions, European Journal of Public Health, Volume 31, Issue 5, October 2021, Pages 1090–1095,

Early impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and social restrictions on ambulance mission

Saved in:
Author: Laukkanen, Lauri1; Lahtinen, Sanna1,2; Liisanantti, Janne1,2;
Organizations: 1Research Group of Surgery, Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, Medical Research Center of Oulu University, Oulu University Hospital, Oulu, Finland
2Department of Anaesthesiology, Oulu University Hospital, Oulu, Finland
3Emergency Medical Services, Oulu-Koillismaa Rescue Department, Oulu University Hospital, Oulu, Finland
4Centre for Pre-Hospital Emergency Care, Oulu University Hospital, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.4 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Oxford University Press, 2021
Publish Date: 2022-02-04


Background: The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has had a major impact on health care services globally. Recent studies report that emergency departments have experienced a significant decline in the number of admitted patients in the early phase of the pandemic. To date, research regarding the influence of COVID-19 on emergency medical services (EMS) is limited. This study investigates a change in the number and characteristics of EMS missions in the early phase of the pandemic.

Methods: All EMS missions in the Northern Ostrobothnia region, Finland (population 295 500) between 1 March to 30 June 2020 were screened and analyzed as the study group. A control group was composed from the EMS calls between the corresponding months in the years 2016–19.

Results: A total of 74 576 EMS missions were screened for the study. Within the first 2 months after the first COVID-19 cases in the study area, the decline in the number of EMS missions was 5.7–13% compared with the control group average. EMS time intervals (emergency call to dispatch, dispatch, en-route, on-scene and hospital handover) prolonged in the COVID-19 period. Dispatches concerning mental health problems increased most in the study period (+1.2%, P < 0.001). Only eleven confirmed COVID-19 infections were encountered by EMS in the study period.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that the present COVID-19 pandemic and social restrictions lead to changes in the EMS usage. These preliminary findings emphasize the importance of developing new strategies and protocols in response to the oncoming pandemic waves.

see all

Series: European journal of public health
ISSN: 1101-1262
ISSN-E: 1464-360X
ISSN-L: 1101-1262
Volume: 31
Issue: 5
Pages: 1090 - 1095
DOI: 10.1093/eurpub/ckab065
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3126 Surgery, anesthesiology, intensive care, radiology
Funding: Open access publication costs funded by FinELib.
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Public Health Association. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited .doi:10.1093/eurpub/ckab065.