Finnish businesses prepare for worsening coronavirus situation

The Confederation of Finnish Industries has been updating companies on the practical steps the can take, as OP Bank warns Finland is susceptible to economic downturn in China.

File picture of Aleksanterinkatu, Helsinki, showing pedestrians and trams / Credit: iStock

Finnish businesses are being advised to take preparations now in case the Covid-19 coronavirus epidemic spreads further into Finland and starts to impact their operations.

Although there have been less than two dozen confirmed cases of coronavirus in Finland so far – and almost all connected with travel to northern Italy – the numbers in other parts of Europe are growing.

Finnair has already scaled back hundreds of flights and issued a profit warning as coronavirus impacts travel plans. Expos, conferences, sports and entertainment events across Europe have been canceled, and organisers of upcoming events in Finland will be considering their own contingency plans in case of a further spread before the virus peaks and plateaus.

“The bigger the companies, the more seriously they are taking it, and this is also in relation to how much manpower they have to direct to solving this issue” says Markku Rajamäki, who deals with risk and security management at the Confederation of Finnish Industries EK.

“I’m afraid that when we go to smaller companies at the other end of the scale there’s much bigger differences in their preparations, and their capabilities to be prepared” he tells News Now Finland.

EK has also issued a 10-point plan for businesses to prepare for coronavirus, and in addition to advice about hand hygiene and looking out for employees with flu-like symptoms, there’s also more practical detailed steps.

Some companies might already have plans in place in the event of this sort of scenario.

“It also depends how long a history they have, did they already do something similar 10 to 15 years before when we had swine flu and bird flu epidemics?” says Rajamäki.

Some of the other advice from EK is to check terms and conditions of company insurance; prepare in advance for a scenario where more staff get sick – by planning for remote working or hiring extra workers.

Businesses are also being advised to look now at the effects the epidemic might have on their entire supply chain if applicable, starting with raw materials and moving on to logistics and spare parts.

File photo: economy, finance, business and banking / Credit: iStock Photo

Potential economic impact of coronavirus 

Although there’s not enough data to give accurate prediction models for how the Finnish economy might be impacted by the spread of coronavirus, you won’t find an expert who thinks there won’t be some measurable effect.

OP Bank estimates that Covid-19 could reduce Finland’s GDP to zero growth this year.

“The Finnish economy is vulnerable to fluctuations in the export market, and the Chinese economy is of great importance to the Finnish economy. Finland could be one of the biggest casualties in Europe” says Reijo Heiskanen, OP’s Chief Economist.

“If the epidemic lasts for several quarters, at least a slight recession is likely. Recovery is also essential. If the Chinese economy returns to its previous trend, the Finnish economy may recover at a rapid pace next year” he adds.

Impact on workers who get sick, or in quarantine

A major consideration for workers is their financial situation if they’re not diagnosed with coronavirus, but anyway ordered into quarantine for two weeks.

While some people might be able to still work remotely, this won’t apply to everyone.

The Finnish Social Insurance Institution Kela says there should be flexibility for staff.

“If an employer for example says that you have to work at home for a certain period, maybe if they have returned from an epidemic area, then they are paid by their employer” says Kela’s Anu von Lode.

And Kela can pay sickness allowance for employees who have been ordered to stay away from work because they might have come into contact with a coronavirus patient – or if they’re the parent of a child under 16 who’s been ordered to self-isolate.

A letter from the chief physician in the municipality will be required in this case, and Kela is still investigating whether Finnish residents in the EU, ordered to self-isolate, can receive the salary compensation allowance.

For any self-employed people who have to go into quarantine at home and cannot work, the benefits are payable based on the annual income levels for their pension insurance contributions to the YEL scheme.