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HUS director calls for tighter rules as Uusimaa corona situation worsens

Stricter rules than the restrictions decreed by government may be in the cards for the Uusimaa region next week.

Asiakas nauttii alkoholia helsinkiläisen Ölhus Köbenhaven -ravintolan ulkoterassilla keskiviikkona 30. syyskuuta 2020.
Restaurants, bars and nightclubs are bracing for even stricter curbs on operations as the Covid-19 case count rises across southern Finland's Uusimaa region. Image: Antti Aimo-Koivisto / Lehtikuva
Yle News

Public health officials and local authorities are said to be considering ratcheting up restrictions in southern Finland’s Uusimaa region as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise rapidly.

Lasse Lehtonen, diagnostics director with the Helsinki University Hospital District (HUS) said that officials are already working on rules for Uusimaa that are more restrictive than directives set to take effect in other parts of the country.

Lehtonen noted that regional administrative authorities and the Finnish Institue for Health and Welfare (THL) will consider the situation next week.

"I think it is very likely that next week the regional body will declare the existence of an acceleration phase and will result in an obligation for the regional administrative authority to implement the government’s regulation relating to opening hours," Lehtonen added.

Regions such as Uusimaa, in which Covid-19 is said to be accelerating have the discretion to introduce tighter limits than national rules. According to these stricter conditions, establishments would have to stop serving alcoholic beverages at 10pm and would have to close their doors at 11pm. Additionally, bars, clubs and restaurants would only be allowed to accommodate half of the maximum number of customers.

Government had previously unveiled a new round of restrictions for bars and restaurants that are due to take effect on Thursday, 8 October. According to those rules, establishments would remain open no later than 1am and they would have to stop serving alcohol at midnight.

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With case counts rising, we reported that Finland wants to close pubs early, looked at hockey crowds during the pandemic and asked if we really live in 'Finntopia'.

Lower impact for restaurants

Restaurant director Santeri Uusitalo runs Kappeli, a dining spot located in the heart of downtown Helsinki. Kappeli is part of the S-Group’s large cooperative, HOK-Elanto. He said that night clubs will be hardest hit by the government’s rules and noted that restrictions could dampen overall enthusiasm to go out at night.

"The restrictions on opening hours won’t affect us directly because we close at 11pm anyway," he added.

Uusitalo noted however, that the situation would be completely different, even for Kappeli, if regional authorities impose tighter curbs due to an acceleration phase. For one thing, it would slash customer capacity by half.

Meanwhile, over at Pasila’s Mall of Tripla, O’Leary’s sports bar restaurant manager Emilia Karlsson said that the absence of big sporting events has already dented the bar's customer turnout. She said she feared that curbs on bars could be followed by new limits on events.

"I’m anxiously waiting to see what effect these new rules will have," she continued.

Hospitality lobby: Firms on a cliff edge

Mara, the lobby group representing firms in the hospitality and tourism industry, said that restaurateurs are fearful that a new round of corona-related restrictions will drive business owners off a cliff edge.

The organisation said that large nightclub owners have already announced that they will be closing up shop as a result of the new rules decreed by government.

Mara estimated that firms in the industry have shed roughly 20,000 jobs because of corona-related restrictions. The sector currently employs roughly 70,000 people.

Mara said that additional limits planned as a result of an acceleration phase -- the halving of customer capacity and even earlier closing hours -- would be an especially hard blow for the industry.

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