Morning headlines: Friday 14th August 2020

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Hunger strikers take climate change message to parliament

A group of protesters is hoping their peaceful but jarring hunger strike action sends a clear message to the Finnish government that more action needs to be taken to slow climate change. “We have one demand to the government, which is to commit to cutting carbon emissions by 20% by the end of 2021, and then by a further 20% every year so that Finland is carbon neutral, or net neutral, by the end of 2025” explains Till Sawala, one of the hunger strikers. The group wants the government not just to commit to this accelerated timetable – the current target is for Finland to become carbon neutral by 2035 – but to set out concrete steps on how exactly they’ll make this happen. The three hunger strikers have been denying themselves food since Monday – consuming only water and tea – and say they’ll continue the action as long as they are able. “We feel like the government is just not taking their responsibilities seriously […] and right now they are taking decisions that you wouldn’t know this is a government that is committed to tackling climate change” says Sawala. Read more at our original story here.

New face mask guidelines for public transport users

Passengers on public transport are being advised to wear a face mask which covers their nose and mouth from today, to help slow the spread of coronavirus. The new voluntary guidelines were announced by the prime minister on Thursday and now transport companies have put out their own advice. HSL, which operates public transport in the capital city region, says “passenger numbers are expected to increase over the autumn, and it may not always be possible to keep a distance of one to two meters with other passengers […] the use of face masks is one precaution against the spread of the coronavirus.” The company points out however that wearing masks is a recommendation not a rule, but they “hope as many people as possible will wear a mask.” HSL reports that at the moment their passenger numbers are around 30-40% lower than at the same time last year.

EU foreign ministers hold Belarus talks

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) joins his EU counterparts today via video, for talks about the worsening situation in Belarus. Protests have continued since a widely-disputed election last week returned strongman ruler Alexander Lukashenko to power for another term. He has been the country’s president since 1994, and opposition groups say the election was mired in fraud. Protests in Belarus have continued for the last five days and thousands of people have been rounded up by security forces – many of those who have been release allege torture at the hands of police. Earlier this week Haavisto said the situation in Belarus after the presidential election was “worrying.” “It is not acceptable to target any kind of violence against peaceful protesters. Belarus must be able to guarantee fundamental and human rights.” A group of UN human rights experts has described the treatment of peaceful protesters in Belarus as harsh, excessive, and indiscriminate.

Covid-19 exposure concerns around the country

Public health authorities around the country are reporting more possible Covid-19 exposures, as the number of cases in Finland continues to grow. In Helsinki several people might have been exposed to coronavirus at Ääniwalli nightclub on Sunday after one person who attended the event tested positive. In Lappeenranta dozens of people have been exposed at a women’s pesäpallo game according to South Karelia’s hospital district. Anyone who went to Leppävaara swimming pools last Sunday between 09:00 and 10:00 may have been exposed after one swimmer tested positive for the virus. And staff at two restaurants in kemi have been exposed to coronavirus on 7th and 8th August, with a possibility that customers were also exposed.

Friday morning weather

There’s scattered showers in the forecast for many places on Friday, but also some sunny spells and mild temperatures this morning. The best of the sunshine is in Lappeenranta and the southeast and also around Enontekiö on the western border with Sweden. Temperatures range from +13°C to +16°C on Friday morning. The forecast for the weekend shows temperatures up to +25°C for Saturday, but some cloudy skies; while Sunday’s forecast has temperature highs of +19°C with clear sunny skies.

Finnish Meteorological Institute forecast for Friday morning 14th August 2020 / Credit: FMI