‘Mutant’ coronavirus: Finland suspends UK flights
Authorities have decided to suspend air passenger traffic between UK and Finland for two weeks in an attempt to stop a new ‘mutant’ fast-spreading coronavirus strain from arriving in Finland. The decision was taken by the Civil Aviation Authority, Traficom and THL and is in place until 4th January. Finland joins other EU countries including Sweden, Germany, Netherlands, France, Italy, Austria, Belgium as well as Canada in the flight ban. Public health officials say the new Covid-19 variant is up to 70% more transmissible than previous strains although there is no evidence it is more deadly. “The number of cases of coronavirus Covid-19 has risen sharply in recent weeks in the UK, despite restrictive measures taken in the country. The increase in incidence has been strongest in the south-east of the United Kingdom, including in the London area” where the new strain can account for about 50% of the increase says THL. However, no cases of this new strain have yet been detected in Finland. Monday morning’s 08:00 Finnair flight to London was already listed as canceled at Finavia’s website before the scheduled departure.
Finland repatriates ISIS-linked women and children from al-Hol camp
The Finnish government, in cooperation with the German government, has repatriated a group of ISIS-linked women and children from the al-Hol refugee camp in northern Syria. The announcement came on Sunday with the Finns bringing back six children and two women. “The mothers of the children were repatriated together with the children. It is not possible to repatriate only the children. In all actions, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says in a statement. The decision to bring the women and children back inevitably sparked a political backlash from opposition politicians, many of whom cast the operation as a way to bring terrorists to Finland. However the Finnish Security Police Supo say the potential threat posed by each person returning from al-Hol is assessed individually and that authorities have been prepared to do this. “The camps in north-east Syria constitute a long-term security risk. The longer the children remain in the camps, without protection and education, the harder it will be to counter radical extremism” the foreign ministry notes.
Overnight fire burns homes in Kuhmoinen
A fire which broke out at a building in Kuhmoinen has destroyed several homes, but the Central Finland Rescue Service says nobody was injured in the blaze. The fire destroyed three apartments in a building in the town, with several others suffering from smoke and water damage. A health centre and elderly care home near the fire were not damaged, however rescue crews are expected to stay on site
Shortest day, brightest planets
Monday marks the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. In Helsinki the sun rises today at 09:24 and sets less than six hours later at 15:11. In Rovaniemi on the Arctic Circle the sun is barely appearing above the horizon before setting again just after 13:00. Further north, there is still a period of kaamos – or polar night – where the sun doesn’t rise or set at all during winter. After today, the days start to slowly lengthen with gradually more minutes of daylight. Today is also marked by a rare celestial event when the two largest planets in the solar system, Jupiter and Saturn, appear to merge together in the sky. Although Jupiter and Saturn appear close to each other every 20 years or so, the last time they seemed to merge so closely happened was back in 1623 and it won’t happen again until 2080. The best time to see this planetary encounter in southern Finland is around 16:00 on Monday afternoon although cloud cover might make it very difficult to see anything at all.
Monday morning weather
It’s a mixed weather picture for the start of the week across the whole country. Temperatures mostly remain a few degrees above freezing except for the far north of Lapland, reaching up to +6°C in Åland and the west coast. There’s plenty of rain and sleet around in a band from Turku through Tampere, Jyväskylä and other central areas, also for southern Lapland.