Coronavirus round-up: Wednesday 18th March 2020

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

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File picture of hand washing hygiene / Credit: iStock

Here’s the first of our new evening round-ups of coronavirus news from Finland.

We changed the schedule after feedback from readers at the website and online – so we’ll have the latest news at the start of each day in the morning headlines; then report any major stories as they happen during the day; and then this round-up in the evening has the other developments you might want to know.

In this evening’s round-up:

  • 359 confirmed cases of Covid-19
  • New emergency measures take force today / tonight
  • HOK-Elanto closes dozens of capital region restaurants
  • Bankruptcy warning from chamber of commerce
  • Tallink suspends services, sends Star ferry to cargo duties

Latest numbers: 359 confirmed coronavirus cases

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare says there have been 359 confirmed cases of Covid-19 coronavirus in Finland. Although most of the cases so far have been mild, three people are in intensive care in hospital.

However, not everyone with symptoms is being tested, only people in high risk groups like those with underlying medical conditions, or key workers in healthcare for example. THL has estimated that the actual number of people infected with coronavirus in Finland is likely to be 20 to 30 times higher than this.

Anyone with flu-like symptoms, or anyone returning to Finland from abroad, is being told to self-isolate for 14 days and only seek medical assistance if their health takes a turn for the worse.

New emergency measures in place from today 

Many of the most sweeping measures being taken by the government to deal with the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus come into force today.

Schools and universities are closed; public gatherings of more than 10 people are banned; those over 70-years are instructed to self-isolate; visits to elderly care facilities and hospitals are sharply restricted; all state and municipal cultural institutions and sports facilities are closed.

There’s also rationing on buying medicine from pharmacies, and borders will be closed from midnight tonight. Read more about those initial main measures at our story here; and read about additional measures at our story here.

HOK-Elanto closes dozens of Helsinki region restaurants

The HOK-Elanto group is closing all 82 of its restaurants in the capital city region because of the coronavirus epidemic. The restaurant staff will move to 200 supermarket outlets in the area to help out increased demand for shoppers.

The company says that demand for food has shifted almost completely from restaurants to homes as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, putting pressure on unloading, shelf stacking and customer service in the grocery store. S-Group’s online food ordering service is also growing quickly as people order home deliveries.

!”With increased work pressure, we need more staff to ensure that we play a key role. With good cooperation, all of HOK-Elanto’s employees will overcome these challenges” says CEO Veli-Matti Liimatainen.

Bankruptcy warnings from chamber of commerse

The Finnish Chamber of Commerce says that one third of companies in Finland fear the threat of bankruptcy as the coronavirus epidemic continues.

The organisation carried out a survey of 4000 member companies and found that slightly more than 30% say the risk of bankruptcy has increased significantly; with the majority saying they expect to make staff lay-offs in the next two months.

More than half of the Chamber’s member firms say the virus has already had a negative impact on their business revenue, and the organisation says the government must do more to overcome the worst of the crisis.

Tallink suspends ferry services

Tallink is suspending some Baltic Sea ferry crossings between Helsinki-Tallinn, and Helsinki-Stockholm.

The ferry operator took its Star ship out of service after it made the 07:30 crossing to Estonia on Wednesday morning. On Thursday it will go to the Estonian port of Paldiski where it will start work carrying cargo to the German port of Sassnitz, a 20-hour journey time.

Passengers with a right of entry into Germany will be allowed on board. The Star’s cargo capacity is 100 lorries and 10 passenger vehicles. Passengers without vehicles will not be allowed on board. Food and medical supplies will be prioritised.

Meanwhile the Serenade and Symphony ferries will halt their Helsinki-Stockholm journeys for the time being. Both ships are making their final voyages on Wednesday night and will stay in port until the end of the emergency period.