Morning headlines: Thursday 21st May 2020

News Now Finland morning news headlines and weather first, every weekday at 09:00.

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Experts: Coronavirus epidemic continues to slow down in Finland 

The team of public health experts monitoring the government’s hybrid strategy of slowly easing restrictions says the coronavirus epidemic continues to slow down compared with the previous two weeks. The average number of cases reported to the communicable disease register each week has fallen for more than a month. The number of of new cases has also decreased in Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District, and in Länsi-Pohja Hospital District, while the number of patients in hospital and intensive care has also been falling. The experts from the Ministry of Health and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL caution that while restrictions are being relaxed cautiously and gradually, coronavirus cases could increase again if instructions on good hand hygiene, cough hygiene and social distancing are not followed.

Flags flying for Helatorstai holiday

If you’re wondering why the flags are flying today in Finland, it’s because of the Helatorstai public holiday – or Ascension Day in English. The day is celebrated by Christian churches as the date when they believe Jesus Christ appeared to his followers, 40 days after ascending to heaven. Although the date of Helatorstai varies each year, as the date of Easter varies, the 40th day after Easter Sunday is always a Thursday. In Finland that means a public holiday although usually most shops are still open and public transport runs a limited service – during the coronavirus crisis however you’re likely to see nothing much different from any other day this week! Helatorstai used to be one of the most important holidays in the Finnish religious calendar back in the 1900s. According to an old saying the day was so sacred that even grass refused to grow.

English lessons on the rise

The proportion of young students learning English is on the rise. According to new figures from Statistics Finland some 83% of students in 1st grade to 6th grade learned some English last year. That’s an increase of nine percentage points compared with the year before. Almost all students in grades 7 to 9 studied English. Some 18.4% of students in grades 1-6 studied Swedish as a non-native language; while small numbers studied French, German and Spanish, while even fewer just 0.6% studied Russian.

Finland’s most popular politicians

The latest edition of an annual poll from Alma Media has highlighted Finland’s most popular politicians. This year’s survey questioned 1,500 who had a choice of two dozen politicians to chose from. Some 62% of people chose President Sauli Niinistö as a favourite Finnish politicians (down slightly from last year’s 66%). Meanwhile 48% said Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) was a favourite – a bit jump from 22% last June when she was Minister of Transport. In third place Left Alliance leader Li Andersson was a favourite of 29% of people. Meanwhile Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) saw his popularity drop from 48% last year to 27% this year. The slump in support comes as Haavisto was mired in controversy over his management style at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and his handling of the al-Hol refugee case which is being investigated by authorities.

Thursday morning weather

It’s a sunnier and slightly warmer start to the Ascension Day holiday than we’ve seen over the last few days, although there will be some scattered showers particularly in the east. Temperatures will reach +15°C in the south and +3°C in Lapland today but this morning begins with temps around +7°C in Oulu, +9°C in Vaasa and down the west coast to Åland and Turku, into central areas as well. The capital city region can wake up to temperatures of +7°C but it’s going to warm up as the day goes on although blustery along the southern coast.

Finnish Meteorological Institute forecast for Thursday morning 21st May 2020 / Credit: FMI