Fighting coronavirus: Government announces new measures including a ban on events

Bans on large gatherings until the end of May, more money for vaccine research, advice on staying away from work, schools and hobbies.

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PM Sanna Marin (SDP) and other ministers give coronavirus briefing to journalists, Helsinki 12th March 2020 / Credit: Laura Kotila, VNK

The government is moving ahead to introduce some mandatory measures to fight the spread of coronavirus in Finland, and recommending some voluntary control measures as well.

At a Thursday afternoon press conference in Helsinki, Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) said that all major events with more than 500 people should be canceled until the end of May, and that organisers of smaller events must do a risk assessment when deciding if it should still go ahead.

Friday’s national commemoration to mark the 80th anniversary of the end of the Winter War, involving the country’s leadership and members of the public at Helsinki Cathedral and Senate Square has been canceled.

Anyone returning from an epidemic area should agree with their employer to be off work for two weeks, and if possible work from home. Any children or young people coming back to Finland from an epidemic area should also stay away from kindergarten or school for two weeks – although there will not be any compulsory school closures at this time.

Any non-essential activities, like hobbies, sports or other leisure activities should be restricted to reduce infections – something that is particularly important to protect those at risk, the government says.

A nationwide hotline service where people can phone with questions or concerns about coronavirus will be expanded – and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL will send an information pack to all homes with more advice.

The government also announced on Thursday that Finland will contribute €5 million to international non-profit organisations that are working to find a vaccine for Covid-19.

Later on Thursday the Prime Minister will meet with leaders of all Parliamentary Groups to discuss the pandemic and see what other measures Finland needs to take to stop the spread, or mitigate the virus.

It would require more legislation if the government wanted to close down schools, kindergartens and universities, private sector activities, shopping centres; or take measures like banning passenger ships, aircraft and other events.

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