New restrictions eyed in Finland as Covid-19 cases rose to 792
By Maria Sheila Riikonen, Finland
HELSINKI – The Finnish government confirmed to YLE media that new restrictions are being prepared to respond to the coronavirus crisis in the country.
The announcement came after Prime Minister Sanna Marin met with parliamentary parties on the coronavirus crisis in Helsinki’s House of Estates Tuesday, March 24.
Among the measures being considered are closing all restaurants and restricting travel to and from Southern Finland’s Uusimaa region – which includes Helsinki, an area that reported the highest Covid-19 incidence in the country.
Marin also told reporters that these measures may need parliamentary action and the government will be submitting the proposed measures to Parliament on Wednesday for approval.
The move to push for new restrictions was a response to growing criticisms of the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis from residents of severely affected areas such as Helsinki, Vanta, and Espoo.
Marin had earlier ordered the ban on assembly of over 10 participants and the closure of middle school and high school but kept Grades 1-3 open for children with working parents on the frontline.
Major ski centers in Lapland were also ordered closed after skiers were found to have tested positive for Covid-19 after ignoring the call for social distancing.
So far, the restrictions in place do not cover the stranded nationals that the Nordic states have agreed to fly home on commercial Finnair flights and the cargo routes of Viking Line vessels to Sweden and Estonia.
According to the latest report from the Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare (THL) there are 792 laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 cases by early Tuesday afternoon. Of these, 40 were receiving hospital treatment, with 11 in intensive care.
Former President Martti Ahtisaari and his wife, Eva Ahtisaari, both 82, had contracted Covid-19. Athtisaari’s wife contracted the virus during a March 8 concert held at a music hall with 1,700 capacity.
Just last week, Finland was voted for the 3rd time as the happiest country in the world by the UN but the pandemic may dampen the celebration this year as the pandemic has already led to economic downturn with the Ministry of Employment saying the temporary layoffs of 100,00 workers layoffs in various companies may just be the beginning and may even double if the crisis escalates.
The first Covid-case in Finland was reported in January when a Chinese tourist visited Ivalo in Lapland.
Töölö: A busy Helsinki district in the capital city where covid19 cases are rising fast. Credit: Maria Sheila Riikonen