PM: State of emergency one step closer as coronavirus cases rise again

A range of new restrictions are introduced with eight regions now in the spreading phase of the pandemic.

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File picture of Sanna Marin (L) and Krista Kiuru (R) at press conference in Helsinki, 26th November 2020 / Credit: VNK

Prime Minister¬†Sanna Marin¬†(SDP) says the continued rise in coronavirus cases in Finland is bringing the government closer to enacting emergency powers to help curb the spread of the pandemic – but there’s no need for it yet.

The PM was speaking at a Thursday briefing where officials announced 496 new cases of Covid-19 in Finland. She said that now is the time to “step up” measures like social distancing and good hand hygiene as more regions enter the spreading phase of the virus.

“I strongly urge the local and regional authorities to work together to keep the disease situation under control and to push it back to baseline” says Marin.

The need for the Emergency Law, the PM notes, would arise if the number of infections increased so dramatically that medical services would become unable to cope with an influx of patients, or if the movement of people from a certain part of the country needs to be restricted – something that happened for the residents of Uusimaa during spring.

“We have seen elsewhere in Europe that the situation could get worse quickly” she adds.

More restrictions in public life

Senior officials also announced more restrictions to public life as this wave of virus continues, with eight regions now in the spreading phase of the virus and infections up 30% in recent weeks.

Public places with a high risk of infection are to be closed temporarily including local council gyms and sports facilities, swimming pools and spas, amusement parks and indoor playgrounds. There is a recommendation to close private gyms, although it is not compulsory.

“It is hoped that the public lounges in shopping centres will be closed, but in such a way that retail stores will continue to be accessible” says Kirsi Varhila, Chief of Staff at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health STM.

Varhilla urged people not to gather in groups of more than 10 people, but said that hobby activities for children could continue as long as there is social distancing in place.

Upper secondary schools and universities will switch to distance learning where possible, with ministers saying they want to keep classroom education in place for younger pupils.

The new restrictions and recommendations remain in place until the middle of December.