Coronavirus update: No new restrictions expected today
Public health officials, and Minister Krista Kiuru (SDP) will give a coronavirus update on Thursday morning but are not expected to announce any new restrictions at this time. Government ministers met on Wednesday evening and on the agenda was the issue of stricter border controls to slow the spread of new Covid-19 infection strains, to ensure the healthcare system is not overwhelmed during the rest of winter and into the spring. Doctors have said this week the new faster-spreading strain of coronavirus, first identified in the UK, is likely to become the dominant strain here in Finland by March. The idea of restricting cross-border travel to only allow essential commuting is hampered by a constitutional right that Finns have to leave the country and return again – however one new measure could be to introduce coronavirus health checks for all arriving passengers to screen for Covid-19. Although the coronavirus situation has improved in some areas in recent days, Prime Minister Sanna Marin has urged municipalities to stick to the restrictive measures currently in place.
Report: Kokoomus wants to lure Finns Party voters at elections
An internal report of the National Coalition Party, obtained by journalists at Helsingin Sanomat, shows a strategy to promote more traditional conservative values and try to target right-wing Finns Party voters ahead of the upcoming municipal elections in April. While Kokoomus and Greens share some voter cross-over in bigger cities, the report finds that it could be easier to attract Finns Party voters instead of Greens. Party leader Petteri Orpo has previously signaled this move of his party further right, and late last year wrote a column for MTV News where he outlined “major problems in the integration of humanitarian migrants”, the sort of language around the discussion of immigrants that had been heard before from the Finns Party. While a section of Kokoomus has long positioned themselves as a blue-green party with an empathy for environmental issues, the new internal report seems to largely abandon that notion in favour of a shift further to the right.
Finns Party criticised for ‘report the teachers’ suggestion
The Finns Party has been criticised by teachers unions after its youth wing appeared to suggest students should send names of teachers and schools who say anything critical about the party during lessons. A Finns Party MP Jani Mäkelä shared the original post and asked people to report to the party if they find any instances of “politics against the Finns Party.” It sparked an online backlash with many commentators saying it had echoes of East Germany’s Stasi secret police. The Finns Party Youth leader Miko Bergbom later backtracked and said the original post had been misunderstood, when instead all he wanted was for young people to share their experiences of discrimination. However the education union OAJ said teachers should not be pressurised by political activists and that the work of Finnish teachers “should not be undermined” by anyone.
Alko sales up 13% during 2020
New figures released on Thursday morning show that sales of alcohol in Finland’s state-run Alko stores jumped during the coronavirus crisis last year. According to the new numbers 92.7 million liters of drinks were bought from Alko last year, up 13% compared with the year before. Sales of wines were up by 15%, spirits up 10%, beer sales rose by 6% and non-alcoholic drinks sales were up by 7%. “Behind us is a strange coronavirus year, which will surely be permanently in the minds of all of us. Despite the increase in Alko’s sales liters, total alcohol consumption is likely to fall, which is good news” says CEO Leena Laitinen. Alko reports that there was an increase in sales of organic alcohol products, and more interest in online sales as customers tried to minimise in-person shopping contacts.
Thursday morning weather
There’s still some fresh snow to come for southern and western parts of the country on Thursday morning but it’s mostly stopped – and replaced by much colder temperatures across the whole of Finland. Across southern Lapland temperatures start the day in the low -30°C range, and parts of the eastern border too will see temperatures around -30°C. Through Central Finland expect temperatures of -25°C and in the south and west temperatures range from -13°C to -20°C but the ‘real feel’ temps will be colder than that. The hottest part of Finland on Thursday morning? Åland, where it’s only -5°C!