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Monday's papers: Helsinki immigration, Europe's third wave, garrison virus outbreak

Monday's papers look at immigrants in the capital region and how Finland is handling the third wave of the pandemic.

Members of the Finnish Defence Force's Pori Brigade, where two coronavirus clusters have been detected. Image: Tapio Termonen / Yle

Finland's biggest paper, Helsingin Sanomat, kicks off the week (siirryt toiseen palveluun) by asking what immigration means for the capital region.

HS's question is prompted by National Coalition Party mayoral candidate Juhana Vartiainen, who the paper quotes as saying "the cities that will be successful in the future are those that attract young people and immigrants."

It's a topic that has gained ground in recent years as Finland's birth rate has fallen. In December last year it was reported that Finland had the lowest birth rate in the Nordic countries.

So, what is immigration worth to Helsinki? "There is no simple answer," Matti Sarvimäki, Assistant Professor of Economics at Aalto University told the paper.

In Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kaunianen, incoming people with a native language other than Finnish, Swedish or Sámi accounted for 70 percent of population growth between 2015 and 2019.

According to Aalto University's Matti Sarvimäki, newcomers do not really compete with Finnish residents for jobs. "The majority of the native population has different skills than newcomers. The concern that immigrants would take a lot of jobs from the native population is not justified, " he tells HS.

On the other hand, "high unemployment among immigrants is a big issue," Senior Research Fellow Pasi Saukkonen from the Helsinki City Information Unit tells the paper.

According to Saukkonen, refugees are among those who have the most difficulty finding work, as they often lack the training and language skills the Finnish job market requires.

Overall, HS finds that Finland is worse at employing foreign-born people than other Nordic countries, with an employment rate of 60 percent, compared to the 65-68 percent seen in Sweden, Denmark and Norway.

Third wave blues

Tampere-based Aamulehti turns its attention (siirryt toiseen palveluun) to the so-called "third wave" of coronavirus now sweeping Europe, which it says is largely the result of new variants of the virus.

The paper quotes THL Chief Physician Taneli Puumalainen, who says that "in several countries, including Finland, the disease situation has turned more difficult again."

For much of the pandemic Finland had performed well, with some of the lowest rates of infection in Europe. Now, that status as a "model country" no longer applies, the paper says.

According to Aamulehti, the development of the third wave has been "worrying." The paper reserves extra concern for the situation in Estonia, where the infection rate is now the second-highest in the continent and around nine times higher than it is in Finland.

Aamulehti quotes HUS physician Asko Järvinen, who says that Estonia's infection rate has had a negative impact in the Helsinki area – itself home to the highest infection rate in the country.

Coronavirus conscripts

Daily tabloid Iltalehti reports on an outbreak (siirryt toiseen palveluun) of coronavirus affecting the Pori Brigade of the Finnish Defence Forces.

The paper reports that conscripts are feeling "corona fatigue" after two infection clusters at garrisons in Niinisalo and Säkylä led to many being placed in isolation.

"The information here is really bad. I have no idea what's going on, no one says anything," one quarantined conscript tells the paper.

Iltalehti's report also alleges that quarantined conscripts do not have access to the shower facilities or changes of clothes. "As far as I know, people who've been exposed [to the coronavirus] are not allowed to use the shower," one garrison member said.

The paper alleges that one conscript interviewed on Sunday had not been able to wash since the previous Thursday. Responding to the claim, the Pori Brigade's Brigadier General Mika Kalliomaa tells the paper that in their case an error had occurred.

"All servicemen should shower daily," he said.

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