Here’s our evening round-up of the latest coronavirus news from Finland:
- Latest Covid-19 cases and fatalities
- Primary and lower secondary schools to re-open
- Fimea bans coronavirus home testing kit
- Pressure grows to re-open Estonia border
- Stockmann takes huge Covid-19 financial hit
Latest Covid-19 cases and fatalities
The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL says there have now been 4,995 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Finland, an increase of 89 from the day before.
There have also been 211 coronavirus-related deaths report in Finland, an increase of five from yesterday.
Finland’s coronavirus statistics were mentioned by US President Donald Trump on Thursday. He tweeted about the number of patients in Sweden who had died from the virus, and noted that Finland, Norway and Denmark all had much lower overall death tolls.
THL says that so far most cases of coronavirus in Finland have been mild, but around the country there are currently 187 patients in hospital receiving treatment for their symptoms, and 48 people in intensive care. Both those numbers have been falling over the course of the last week.
Primary and lower secondary schools to re-open
Classrooms will be open for primary school and lower secondary school pupils from 14th May, after being closed for almost two months, since 18th March.
There will be some changes to school life when students return – with more space in classrooms, restrictions on mingling between classes, and a ban on festivities like end of term parties.
Schools will also have to figure out what to do with students during break time and lunchtimes, to keep them from mingling in groups that are too large.
Education Minister Li Andersson (Left) says the reason for suspending schools was to contain the epidemic effectively, which has now been done so the reasons for closing classrooms no longer exists.
Healthcare authorities have said that keeping restrictions too long risks a second wave of infections that is worse than the original wave. Read more here.
Fimea bans coronavirus home testing kit
The kits were being offered by the Finnish website testerit.fi, with a price tag of €200 each. The company had repackaged testing kits that were intended for use by medical professionals, and selling them for use at home instead.
Fimea says the operating instructions in the testing kid did not correspond to the product originally placed on the market by the manufactuer, and that the Testerit website did not make it clear the tests aren’t suitable for consumers at home.
The tests, say Fimea, “have not been shown to be safe and reliable in the hands of a lay person.” Read more here.
Pressure grows to re-open Estonian border
The government will be discussing options on Sunday for a phased re-opening of the Estonia border.
Ahead of those talks the Estonian Confederation of Employers Tööandjad has lobbied Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) and the Finnish government to open the border between the two countries – which they say is vitally important for Estonia’s economy.
In a letter to the PM, the organisation points to an agreement between Estonia and Latvia which keeps their shared land border open for people going back and forth to work, without having to go into quarantine in their home country. At present, anyone arriving in Finland from a foreign country would have to go to mandatory self-imposed isolation.
“We are proposing Finland to consider easing the restrictions for border crossings, and allowing the free movement of workers between Estonia and Finland” says Kai Realo the President of the Federation.
The organisation says that ferry operators are ready to start passenger services again, even if it means restricting the number of people allowed on board at any time, to ensure good physical distancing practices. Read more here.
Stockmann takes huge Covid-19 financial hit
Finnish retailer Stockmann has announced a decrease in sales for the first quarter of this year, as a promising start to 2020 turned sour when the effects of the coronavirus pandemic started to hit their business.
During January, February and March, Stockmann’s retail sales fell by 17.6% compared with the year before, to €168.4 million. The company’s operating losses increased from €20.6 million in the first three months of last year, to €29.4 million in Q1 this year.
“The unprecedented situation caused by the coronavirus led to an extreme decline in customer volumes and sales after the first week of March and sales declined by 49.1 % in March” says CEO Jari Latvanen.
The company is going through a corporate restructuring at the moment, and one of the options being considered is to sell real estate, including the brand’s flagship building in central Helsinki – the largest department store in the Nordic region – then lease it back.