The chief executives officers of Finland’s earnings-related pension providers are calling on the government to boost the country’s healthcare capacity, saying Finland “must be prepared for the worst” in the coronavirus pandemic.

The heads of pension insurers Ilmarinen, Varma, Elo and Veritas published a joint statement on Friday, saying that even Finland had not been able to adequately prepare for the COVID-19 outbreak, although its security of supply was good compared to many other countries.

Jouko Pölönen of Ilmarinen, Varma’s Risto Murto, Satu Huber of Elo and Carl Pettersson of Veritas, said: “Now is not the time for us to be paralysed, but we must swiftly decide on the next steps.”

“We believe that strengthening healthcare capacity would be the best way for individuals and society to take action, as well as a worthwhile investment,” they said.

The leaders said Finland needed to rapidly increase the capacity of its intensive care units, calling on the government to take the same step many others had taken in converting usable buildings into temporary hospitals.

The chiefs also stressed the need for widespread testing for infection, to track the spread of the virus, quarantining and isolating those affected.

Both public and private sectors should be quickly harnessed to make significant and rapid investments in healthcare capacity as well as in stopping the virus to shorten the duration of the epidemic and its containment, they said.

“If we can save lives while reducing or shortening the duration of the epidemic by investing in healthcare capacity, these investments will quickly pay off,” they wrote.

The pension insurers – which manage the Nordic country’s earnings-related pension system – warned that the population as a whole could not be isolated for any significant period of time. Being so would cause more human suffering, they said in the statement.

In such a scenario, they said companies would fail, jobs would be permanently lost, and the economic slowdown would cause historically-fast and lasting damage to the tourism and service industries.

“The cost of the economic downturn may outweigh the worst experiences of banking crises,” they warned.

In a blog last week, the CEO of the State Pension Fund of Finland (Valtion Eläkerahasto, VER) commented on lessons that could be learned from the outbreak. Timo Löyttyniemi said the fact the coronavirus disaster was different from previous crises showed it was vital to be prepared to deal with a wide range of threats.