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Wednesday's papers: Flu deaths, Ahtisaari speaks up, buses still cheapest

The nation's newspapers on Wednesday dealt with the unusually intense flu season this year – which has caused dozens of deaths. We read what former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari thinks about current events and politics. VR may have lowered their train ticket prices this week, but cheaper alternatives remain.

Presidentti Martti Ahtisaari.
Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari at a political journalists' luncheon in Helsinki on Tuesday, February 16, 2016. Image: Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva

It appears that Finland's two national tabloids are keeping a death count tally on their front pages. Wednesday's front page of Iltalehti states that at least 38 people have died from the current wave of influenza that's spreading across the country.

Just one day ago, IL's competitor Ilta-Sanomat featured a similar front page reporting about half that number.

According to Wednesday's Iltalehti nearly 200 people infected with the particularly robust influenza virus have been hospitalised and placed in intensive care.

Flu hits seniors particularly hard, the article states, but the virus has taken the life of one child in Ostrobothnia. However, the child had health problems to begin with. A two-year old child also succumbed to the disease in Turku, the paper writes.

There are some 70 people with flu in intensive care units at the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS). According to chief physician Asko Järvinen about 80 percent of those had not gotten the flu vaccine this year or were already ill and their immune systems could not deal with the virus.

The virus has hit southwest Finland particularly hard, the paper reports. Some 806 people are confirmed to have contracted the illness, with some 20 people in intensive care. So far five people in southwest Finland have died from the flu. The only other region to have more reports of the virus is the highly populated Uusimaa district, which is dealing with more than 3,000 patients and eight deaths due to the disease.

Elder statesman speaks up

Former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari spoke at a political journalists' luncheon on Tuesday, and he didn't appear to mince words, according to many papers, including Helsingin Sanomat and Hufvudstadsbladet.

Commenting on internal politics and policy, Ahtisaari told reporters that national discourse would not improve without first focusing on actively getting Finland back on its feet economically and avoiding internal bickering.

The Nobel Peace Prize recipient and international conflict negotiator said "We have to remember that we're talking about 10,000 immigrants in Finland."

"The biggest challenge is to improve the economy. It was just as bad, or worse, when I became president, but back then there was a huge will to cooperate. I hope that a similar spirit can again be exhibited," Hufvudstadsbladet reported.

Ahtisaari also commented on the Middle East, saying that only a long-term democratic solution would fully solve the war in Syria. He said that a simple ceasefire would not be a permanent remedy, and said that there would need to be a consensus about the direction a peace process would take before such steps are hastily taken.

The elder politician also chimed in on veteran politician Paavo Väyrynen, who recently launched a new political party which primarily aims to take Finland out of the eurozone.

"Perhaps [Väyrynen] should think about how he will depart politics - that would be a favour," Ahtisaari told the group of surprised reporters, Hufvudstadsbladet writes.

Discount bus still cheapest

To better compete with discount bus lines, national railroad firm VR lowered prices by an average of 25 percent this week.

However, the railroad also changed its special discounts for groups like students and seniors as well as raising the cost of family tickets.

Helsingin Sanomat reports that while it is cheaper to travel by train than it was before, it's still more expensive than discount bus firm Onnibus' lowest ticket prices.

As an example, according to their colourful chart, the cheapest tickets available for a trip on March 31 from Helsinki to Tampere by train is 9.90 euros, but on Onnibus the trip could be gotten for two euros. Matkahuolto bus tickets go for 27 euros, but include a ten-minute longer bus ride, and a flight on Finnair to Tampere costs some 285 euros.

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