Finnish authorities likely to tighten restrictions next week

The coronavirus situation in Finland has deteriorated dramatically in recent days. The government, local and regional authorities are all now urgently preparing new recommendations to try to prevent the spread of infections.

The number of confirmed new cases on Thursday was the highest so far this autumn, with nearly 300 reported by the National Institute for Health and Welfare THL. Also, as of Thursday the two-week infection rate for Finland hit 34 per 100,000 inhabitants. On Wednesday, it was at 31. Last week the figure was 18.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) announced on Tuesday that the government is preparing a comprehensive package of measures to be discussed next week. Krista Kiuru (SDP), Minister for Family and Basic Services who is in charge of the government’s coronavirus programme, said the government would provide support to regional authorities in their efforts to curb the epidemic.

There are several measures on the list of tighter restrictions that may be recommended by the government and decided on by the regional authorities.

According to information obtained by Yle, the most urgent measures being prepared are a cap on the size of gatherings and distance teaching for secondary schools and vocational school students, at least in regions where the number of infections is on the rise.

In September, the government outlined action to be taken at various stages of the epidemic. The government’s policy is to adapt restrictions on daily life based on infection rates.

Infections rates high in six areas

On Thursday, the epidemic accelerated in five provinces, and in one – Ostrobothnia – the coronavirus is in the so-called spreading phase.

The virus is now in the acceleration phase in Uusimaa, Kanta-Häme, Varsinais-Suomi, Pirkanmaa and South Ostrobothnia. Authorities have announced that restaurants and bars in these five regions and Ostrobothnia should stop serving drinks after 10 pm and close doors at 11 pm. Establishments are only allowed to take in half of their normal number of customers. The new restaurant restrictions will come into force at midnight on Saturday.

Currently, the limit on gatherings is set at 50 people. A larger group may only assemble if, for example, safe distancing is guaranteed. According to information obtained by Yle, that number will be lowered.

A large proportion of the new cases being reported are young people. According to THL, there are a lot of mass exposures in schools, but few of these have caused large numbers of infections.

Some of the health restrictions are decided upon by the government, and some independently by regional authorities.

Decisions on restrictions concerning the operations of bars and restaurants, as well as travel restrictions are made by the government. On Wednesday, the government announced that bars and restaurants will have to close their doors in the worst affected areas as early as 11 pm.

Other restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus epidemic vary across the country depending on the situation and the decisions of the region and local authorities.

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