Morning headlines: Tuesday 22nd December 2020

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

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Government to approve vaccines decree, as first batch arrives

Government ministers are set to meet in a special session on Tuesday to approve a decree that will allow Covid-19 vaccinations to begin in Finland. European regulators have approved a marketing authorisation for the first vaccine, from Pfizer-BioNtech, so that a rollout programme can begin. The initial batches of the vaccine, which must be stored at ultra-low temperatures, are also expected to arrive in Finland this week and vaccinations will begin on 27th December, authorities say. Clinical studies show that the vaccine is about 95% effective, meaning that the number of laboratory-confirmed cases of Covid-19 was reduced by 95% in people who received the vaccine compared with those who received the placebo. The vaccine also proved effective in at-risk groups such as people with asthma, chronic lung disease, diabetes, hypertension or who are overweight. The vaccine is given in two doses, with 21 days between vaccinations. According to THL most of the side effects of the vaccine are mild and transient, such as reactions at the injection site such as redness and swelling; as well as fever, headache, muscle and joint pain.

Coronavirus tests for UK passengers

Public health authorities are urging any passengers who arrived in the UK from Finland since 7th December to get a coronavirus test. It comes after Finland joined some 40 other countries to impose a UK travel ban as a new fast-spreading strain of coronavirus emerged there, accounting for up to half of all new cases especially around London and the southeast of England. “The aim of the tests is to ensure that the new virus variant does not spread in Finland through potentially asymptomatic infected people” says THL, while also saying anyone who traveled from the UK and who has already been tested for coronavirus should get another test now. “Little is known about the properties of the new coronavirus variant, but the viral variant may be more contagious and thus more effective in spreading” says THL, adding that there are no cases of the new strain currently detected in Finland, and that there is no evidence it causes more severe Covid-19 or increased deaths. Traficom has banned all flights from the UK to Finland for the next two weeks, but Finnair says they will have some flights going from Helsinki to London, Manchester and Edinburgh with passengers – but returning as cargo-only flights.

Verdict expected in ‘Eno’ sex abuse case 

The District Court in Helsinki is expected to hand down a judgment today in the case of a 66-year old man known as ‘Eno’ who is accused of committing numerous acts of rape and sexual exploitation against young people. The trial heard how dozens of young people were involved, almost all of them minors at the time of the alleged abuse. In January courts ordered the man, and another accused man, to undergo a psychiatric assessment to see whether they understood their actions. Most of the suspected crimes took place at Eno’s home in the Laajasalo neighbourhood of Helsinki where police say he offered young people alcohol and drugs, and then sexually abused them. The alleged abuse happened over a period of 2006 to 2019. The case has 32 indictments against Eno with 19 victims. Prosecutors have demanded lengthy prison sentences for the two accused men. Both have denied their guilt.

Wolf cull permit issued in North Karelia

The Finnish Game Centre has issued a permit to cull four wolves around Lake Tohmajärvi in North Karelia. Authorities say the exemption has been granted because the wolves have repeatedly entered gardens, and the Game Centre says while the animals have been chased away this has not worked and they keep coming back: the last resort culling permit is considered now the only way to solve the issue. The wolves have reportedly killed domestic dogs on a number of occasions during autumn and the start of winter. However the hunting exemption permit is being challenged in the Administrative Court – courts are also currently considering another challenge to a cull order in Northern Ostrobothnia where wolves there had killed or injured several dogs involved in a hunting party.

Survey: Most Finns support coronavirus bonuses for nursing staff

A survey for Uutissuomalainen newspaper group found that 3 out of 4 Finns would be in favour of paying a bonus to nursing staff working to treat coronavirus patients. Older, middle-income and female respondents were most likely to be supportive of paying the bonus, the survey found. Only 15% of people did not want to pay any bonuses. When it comes to political persuasion, people who support the Social Democrats, Centre Party and Left Alliance were most enthusiastic about paying the bonus; the Greens and Finns Party supporters were ranked around the same, while Supporters of the National Coalition Party had the most negative attitude about giving bonuses.

Tuesday morning weather

It’s a fairly mild and wet start to Tuesday morning across most of the country – only northern Lapland sees temperatures down in the low single digits, expect up to +5°C elsewhere. Rain extends through Northern Ostrobothnia and down into eastern border areas around Joensuu. There’s rain too around the capital city region with extensive cloud cover everywhere else.

Finnish Meteorological Institute forecast for Tuesday 22nd December 2020 / Credit: FMI