Coronavirus latest: Saturday 14th March 2020

Here's our daily round-up of all the latest Covid-19 coronavirus news from Finland.

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File image of someone who is sick & taking medicine / Credit: iStock

Here’s the latest news you need to know about coronavirus in Finland:

  • 55 new cases since Friday / 210 cases in total
  • Government to meet on Sunday
  • Finnair forced to cancel more flights, ahead of AGM
  • Uusimaa emergency hotline “overloaded” with coronavirus calls
  • Returning residents to get coronavirus text message
  • Foreign Ministry sharpens its message for Finnish travelers

55 new cases of coronavirus confirmed

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL reports that there have been 55 new cases of coronavirus confirmed since Friday. That brings the total number of Covid-19 cases so far in Finland to 210.

Here’s where the latest cases have been discovered:

  • 36 new cases in Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District
  • 6 new cases in Northern Ostrobothnia Hospital District
  • 2 new cases in the Hospital District of Southwest Finland
  • 3 new cases in Pirkanmaa Hospital District
  • 2 new cases in the Central Finland Hospital District
  • 2 new cases in Satakunta Hospital District
  • 1 mew case in South Savo Hospital District
  • 1 new case in Lapland Hospital District
  • 1 new case in the Central Ostrobothnia Hospital District
  • 1 new case in North Savo Hospital District

Government to hold Sunday coronavirus strategy meeting

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) says the leaders of the five coalition parties in government will be meeting on Sunday to discuss the spread of coronavirus, and Finland’s response.

“In difficult and rapidly changing circumstances, it is important that key players are informed about the situation and the actions of the government” Marin writes on Twitter.

On the agenda at the meeting is likely to be the Emergency Act legislation, which would allow authorities to issue directives to take more action against the spread of coronavirus including (but not limited to) ordering all schools and universities to close, and imposing closures on shopping centres, ports and airports.

On Monday the full cabinet will meet and Marin has said there’s a lot of misinformation about the government’s actions to combat coronavirus, so she plans to give even more regular briefings next week.

Finnair announces more flight cancelations 

Finnair is canceling more flights due to the coronavirus pandemic. On Saturday afternoon the national airline announced the following cancelations:

  • Norway flights: 17.3 – 31.3
  • Denmark flights: 17.3 – 31.3
  • Russia flights: 16.3 – 31.3
  • Poland flights: 15.3 – 31.3
  • Prague flights: 16.3 – 31.3

Finnair has already had to cancel hundreds of flights – amounting to more than 20% of its services – including all mainland China flights, Delhi and USA services, and cut back on frequencies for other routes during the current outbreak.

The airline is holding its annual general meeting next Wednesday as is implementing some special precautions without breaching their legal obligations of an AGM.

HUS emergency hotline “overloaded” with coronavirus calls

The Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District says its emergency care hotline 116 117 has been “overloaded” in recent days with coronavirus calls.

HUS is urging local residents to call the emergency care number only for emergencies, so that people in need of urgent care can receive help more quickly.

“In recent days, there have been a lot of calls related to coronavirus” says Hanna Vainio, Service Manager at HUS Emergency Response.

Most of the coronavirus-related calls have been from anxious patients, or people reporting mild symptoms, and only a small number of callers are being referred for further testing.

The advice for anyone with mild respiratory symptoms is to stay at home, even if coronavirus is suspected.

Returning residents to get coronavirus warning text 

Anyone returning home to Finland from abroad will receive an SMS text message about coronavirus.

The Minister of Transport and Communications Timo Harakka (SDP) made the announcement on Saturday, saying the new arrangement has been agreed by ministries, and the Finnish telephone operators, plus the Emergency Response Centre

The text message will let people know that they are recommended to go into self-isolation for 14 days.

Messages are already starting to be sent immediately from Saturday.

Foreign Ministry sharpens its message: “Don’t travel abroad!”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sharpened its message to members of the public on Saturday, saying bluntly: “Don’t travel abroad!”

That’s a step up from Thursday’s advice which said there was “no need to travel at the moment” in general.

The ministry says its hotline has been flooded by Finns abroad but the Emergency Response Centre is only for genuine emergencies only, and says that travel difficulties with interrupted holidays or canceled flights are not an emergency.

“Try to find out your return journey arrangements through your tour operator, airline or insurance company. Travelers are now required to adapt to the situation and tolerate uncertainty” says the ministry in its latest release.

“Many travelers may have to stay at their destination until air traffic resumes. Tour operators and airlines are trying to bring Finns back home.”

For non-urgent inquiries the ministry is urging Finnish travelers to send an email to: pajaunys.um@formin.fi