Coronavirus round-up: Friday 29th May 2020

Here’s our evening round-up of the latest coronavirus news from Finland

Coronavirus graphic / Credit: iStock

Here’s our evening round-up of the latest coronavirus news from Finland:

  • Latest virus figures from THL
  • New guidelines: yes, it’s okay to travel around the country
  • Experts: ‘No strong scientific evidence’ for mandatory face masks
  • Parliament & president approve new restaurant opening legislation
  • Finland’s economy goes into recession

Latest virus figures from THL 

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL says there have now been 6,776 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Finland, an increase of 33 from the day before.

There have also now been 314 coronvirus-related deaths which is an increase of just 1 from the previous day.

Over the last seven day reporting period from 20th to 26th May there were 235 new cases of Covid-19 detected. In the previous seven day period that figure was 320 new cases.

Around the country there are currently 74 people in hospital receiving treatment for their symptoms including 10 in intensive care. These numbers have been falling in all hospital districts over the course of the last month.

New guidelines: Yes, it’s okay to travel around the country

New guidelines issued by the Government on Friday confirm that yes, domestic travel is allowed as long as people take sensible precautions.

There had been some doubt about whether it was okay to travel around Finland, for example to summer cottages. Now ministers are giving the green light to domestic trips.

“Opening up domestic tourism is a sensible decision” says Minister for Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä (Centre).

“As the Minister responsible for tourism I feel it is important to get Finland’s tourism industry and economy back on track, of course safety first” he says.

The government says that given the current state of the epidemic in the country, it’s unlikely that opening up domestic tourism would increase the spread of the virus. However they want to be ready to make rapid regional changes if the situation changes.

The new guidelines says that nobody should travel if they’re sick, and if they get any Covid-19 symptoms the first thing to do is contact health authorities in their place of residence.

Officials warn against any unnecessary physical contact, and remind people to follow good hand hygiene and coughing practices.

Experts: ‘No strong scientific evidence’ for mandatory face masks

A study commissioned by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health about the use of face masks during the coronavirus pandemic has been completed by experts and is ready to be submitted to the government.

At a Friday afternoon press conference experts said they evaluated five different scientific studies about the effectiveness of face masks – which cover nose and mouth – and four of those studies found that face masks did not affect the spread of the virus.

Emeritus Professor Marjukka Mäkelä says that from the research, it is not clear that using masks provides a significant benefit. However, the professor adds that it doesn’t mean they are useless.

Use of face masks for the general public has varied from country to country. In some Asian countries, and in southern and central Europe, their use is widespread; whereas in other parts of Europe less so – although it is recommended to wear masks on public transport in some EU countries.

Chief of Staff at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health Kirsi Varhila says that companies can make their customers wear masks – this is something Finnair has done, for example – but the company should then provided the masks. Read more here.

Parliament & president approve new restaurant opening legislation

Parliament and the President approved new temporary amendments to the Communicable Diseases Act on Friday, which makes it possible for restaurants, bars and cafes to open again for business on 1st June.

Businesses will be able to serve alcohol until 22:00 and food until 23:00 and as a coronavirus precaution they are only allowed to take in 50% occupancy, with everyone seated – no standing at the bar.

The legislation has taken longer than anticipated to get through the parliamentary process because the original draft from the Government was halted by the Constitutional Affairs Committee which demanded amendments.

The new rules for opening come the same week that Parliament approved a €170 million compensation package for the industry. The money covers up to 15% of lost income in April and May, and also provides money to re-employ staff who were laid off.

However industry groups say neither of the new laws go far enough to help business owners. Read more here.

Finland’s economy is officially in recession

Finland’s economy officially plunged into recession during the first quarter of this year, as the effects of the coronavirus were felt.

In the last quarter of 2019 the volume of GDP contracted by 0.6% compared with the previous quarter; while in the period January to March this year the country’s GDP volume decreased by 0.9%.

That means GDP has contracted for two consecutive quarters putting the country into recession.

Economists have previously said Finland’s economy could contract by up to 14% during this year as a direct result of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, with tens of thousands of people made unemployed or furloughed, companies reporting fewer orders on their books and inward tourism barely registering this year.