Coronavirus latest: Thursday 12th March 2020

Here's our daily round-up of all the latest Covid-19 coronavirus news from Finland.

File picture of nurse taking blood / Credit: iStock

Here’s the latest news you need to know about coronavirus in Finland:

  • Government bans large events until the end of May + other measures
  • 50 new coronavirus cases reported / 109 in total
  • Foreign Ministry advises against traveling at the moment
  • First healthcare worker confirmed with Covid-19
  • Finnair cancels USA flights after Trump travel ban
  • Russian health checks on Allegro trains to St. Petersburg
  • Elixia closing all of its Finland gyms for two weeks
  • Delivery companies offering no-contact options for customers

Government announces new measures to halt coronavirus spread

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) and the government announced a range of new measures on Thursday afternoon to try and halt the spread of coronavirus in Finland.

Public events with 500+ people are banned until the end of May, and organisers of smaller events are asked to do a careful risk assessment of whether they should still go ahead. There’s also advice to cancel recreation activities, hobbies and sports to stop contamination and for anyone returning to Finland from a place with infections – adults or children – to take mandatory time off school and work.

Finland is also contributing €5 million to non-profit research organisations working to find a vaccine for the coronavirus.

Later on Thursday the government will meet with all the parties in Parliament to look at any other measures which might be required in the coming days and weeks, including possible legislation to close down schools and universities, shopping centres, ports and airports.

Read the full details at our story here.

Fifty new coronavirus cases reported – 109 in total

The Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare reports that there have been 50 new coronavirus cases confirmed since Wednesday – bringing the total in Finland to 109.

The breakdown of where the cases have been diagnosed is:

  • 18 new cases in Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District
  • 17 new cases in the Northern Ostrobothnia Hospital District
  • 4 new cases in Pirkanmaa Hospital District
  • 4 new cases in the district of Kanta-Häme
  • 2 new cases in Southwest Finland Hospital District
  • 2 new cases in Satakunta Hospital District
  • 2 new cases in Central Finland Hospital District
  • 1 new case in Sout Ostrobothnia Hospital District


Foreign Ministry advises against travel 

The Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs is advising people not to travel at the moment. In a new bulletin on Thursday afternoon, the ministry said that because the coronavirus pandemic is so widespread, there was little point in advising against specific travel to individual countries, but that there was “no need to travel at the moment” in general.

The ministry says that since the situation is changing rapidly, further entry bans are expected for Finnish nationals and some countries which were previously visa-free have also imposed visa requirements on Finnish passport holders.

First healthcare worker confirmed with Covid-19

Helsinki University Hospital reports the first healthcare worker to be infected with coronavirus. A heart surgeon at Meilahti Hospital was diagnosed with Covid-19 on Wednesday 11th March after returning from a trip to Austria’s Tyrol region. The doctor began to feel sick on Monday during the working day and did not come to work on Tuesday. The doctor was in contact with 28 members of HUS staff and 13 of them have been exposed to the virus and placed on home quarantine as a precaution. Six patients and relatives have been exposed and the hospital is in touch with them. Read more at our story here.

Finnair cancels USA flights after Trump travel ban

Finnair is canceling flights to the USA between 14th March and 12th April. The move comes after US authorities announced a  travel ban on people from Schengen countries. On Wednesday night Donald Trump said the 30 day restriction would come into force on Friday and apply to anyone who has been in one of the 26 visa-free Schengen countries – including Finland – during the previous 14 days. The ban does not apply to legal permanent residents of the USA, or their families or US citizens returning from the European countries affected.

Flights to and from Miami, New York and Los Angeles are impacted; and Finnair is also canceling its flights to New Delhi from 15th March for a month after Indian authorities imposed travel restrictions on foreigners entering the country.

Earlier, Finnair’s CEO Topi Manner described coronavirus as “one of the biggest shocks in the 100-year history of civil aviation” when he spoke to Finnair staff at a series of town hall meetings about the epidemic.

Russian health checks on Allegro trains

Health authorities in Russia have started to do temperature checks on Allegro train passengers going between Helsinki and St. Petersburg. Helsingin Sanomat reports that some checks were carried out earlier, but since the weekend have become more systematic. Officials get on the train after it crosses the border into Russia and check passengers for fever. VR tells Helsingin Sanomat that anybody with high temperature would be taken to local hospitals in Russia.

Elixia closing all its gyms for two weeks 

The Elixia gym chain, with 30 outlets across the country, is closing them all for the next two weeks to try and stop the spread of coronavirus. In a statement published on Thursday and sent to all gym members, Elixia says it is a “precautionary measure”.

The company says it is important “to take an extended responsibility and contribute to the overall public health, also in a difficult situation like this. The decision is in line with the Company’s vision of making people healthier and happier.”

The close-down begins immediately at 13:00 on Thursday and will initially last for 14 days. During that time all memberships are on hold but the gym is offering online training. There’s no estimate yet from Elixia about the financial impact of the move on their finances.

Wolt and S-Group to offer no-contact delivery options

Two of Finland’s biggest food and grocery delivery companies say they’ll roll out options for a no-contact drop-off service, as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continues to rise across Europe.

Wolt and Foodie, the S-Group delivery service, say it’s already possible to request a no-contact delivery, but confirm to News Now Finland that they’ll formalise this as part of the online ordering process in the coming days.

In Finland, Wolt say they’ve been working on updating their app since last week and plan to make the no-contact option available “as soon as possible” while S-Group say the option will be available first in the capital city region before being introduced elsewhere. Read more in our original story here.