Coronavirus round-up: Thursday 19th March 2020

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

File picture of coronavirus blood sample / Credit: iStock

Here’s our evening round-up of coronavirus news from Finland:

  • 400 confirmed Covid-19 coronavirus cases
  • S-Group closes hotels, 1000+ staff laid off
  • Restaurant’s community spirit providing 500 meals
  • Finnish diplomatic missions stop issuing visas
  • Health services mobilising more resources to fight coronavirus
  • Parliament takes more virus precautions

400 confirmed Covid-19 coronavirus cases

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL says there are now approximately 400 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 strain of coronavirus in Finland. That figure is based on laboratory-confirmed figures collected by THL through direct communication with healthcare districts.

However, not everyone with symptoms is being tested, only people in high risk groups like those with underlying medical conditions, or key workers in healthcare for example. THL has estimated that the actual number of people infected with coronavirus in Finland is likely to be 20 to 30 times higher than this.

THL says the same testing strategy is being used in other Nordic countries, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The World Health Organisation WHO has urged countries to “test and trace” every single Covid-19 infection.

Anyone with flu-like symptoms, or anyone returning to Finland from abroad, is being told to self-isolate for 14 days and only seek medical assistance if their health takes a turn for the worse.

S-Group closes hotels, 1000+ staff laid off

S-Group is closing many of its hotels and their restaurants in Finland due to the coronavirus epidemic and the impact it’s had on the hospitality and tourism trade.

All Sokos Hotels, Radisson Blu and Sokotel venues will temporarily close in Oulu, Vaasa, Tampere, Joensuu, Seinäjoki, and the Helsinki metropolitan region. Around 1048 staff will be laid off for a maximum duration of 90 days.

The majority of Sokos Hotels owned by S-Group’s regional cooperatives are currently remaining open, with any decision to close taken at a local level.

Among the hotels which will be shuttered include the Hotel Presidentti and Radisson Blue Seaside in Helsinki; Sokos Tapiola Garden in Espoo; and the Tower, Villa and Tammer hotels in Tampere.

Restaurant’s community spirit cooks up 500 meals for elderly people

A restaurant in Helsinki is trying to help more vulnerable members of the community, even as its own business is hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

Lie Mi Vietnamese Kitchen in Kamppi has seen a big downturn in customer numbers as diners increasingly stay away from restaurants in the last couple of weeks.

The restaurant’s owners decided to make up 500 food parcels with 12 different items inside including fruit, canned and dried goods, and soap to distribute through church volutneers to elderly people who might be stuck in their homes.

“Feeding 500 people is not much, but it’s something” says Lie Mi manager Oona Kauhanen.

Read more about the restaurant’s positive community spirit at our original story here.

Finnish diplomatic missions stop issuing visas

Finnish consulates and embassies around the world – like those of other Schengen countries – have immediately stopped issuing visas until further notice.

The EU has essentially closed all its external borders to non-EU nationals or residents during the coronavirus epidemic.

Although there will be exceptions for individual cases, such as family members of Finnish citizens – any passports which have been taken to start the visa issuing process will be return and the applications will not be processed.

The exception is in Russia, where any visa applications already received by Finnish officials will continue to be processed as normal.

Applications for residence permits in Finland are also being immediately suspended. Any that have already been lodged will be processed normally by Migri, however interviews for residence permit applications are also now suspended until further notice.

Health service mobilising more resources to fight coronavirus

Healthcare authorities are preparing to mobilise more resources to fight the ongoing Covid-19 epidemic in Finland, as the Government gives additional advice to older people about social distancing.

At a Thursday press conference, Minister of Family and Basic Services Krista Kiuru said that residents will receive more information at their homes about Covid-19 by the beginning of April.

Kiuru also said that in the capital region, Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District could likely need more resources to cope with the number of patients needing care, and as healthcare staff take absences to self-quarantine, and so the Government has options to mobilize private health resources, or borrow from other hospital districts to cover any shortfall on a temporary basis.

Parliament takes more coronavirus precautions 

The Finnish Parliament has adapted the way it works to keep on the right side of new coronavirus rules.

At today’s question time session, only a quarter of MPs were present, with the different Parliamentary Groups deciding themselves which Members of Parliament would attend.

The Parliament building has already stopped taking tour groups from members of the public, and banned handshakes. Experts who would normally visit to brief committees are sending their information by other means; and journalists are being discouraged from grouping together for interviews with politicians where possible.