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Tuesday's papers: PM apologises, counter-protesters detained, cold snap continues

The media speculates that Prime Minister Sanna Marin may face a political backlash over missed coronavirus exposure notices.

Sanna Marin piti tiedotustilaisuun Valtioneuvoston linnassa illalla 15. lokakuuta.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin at a press briefing 15 October. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle
Yle News

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) was at the centre of a media storm after it came to light that she had been clubbing with friends in central Helsinki on Saturday night and missed two messages cautioning her against close contacts with others after possibly being exposed to the coronavirus.

On Saturday, it was announced that Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) had contracted Covid, was asymptomatic and working remotely.

In an email interview with the tabloid Iltalehti Prime Minister Marin explained that she was given oral instructions that this would not result in quarantine or other special measures, as members of the cabinet had received two vaccinations.

"This information is in line with THL's general guidelines for citizens, and therefore I did not question it," Marin said

Late on Saturday evening, government members who had been in meetings with Haavisto were sent two SMS messages telling them to avoid contacts with other people until they had been tested for the virus.

Prime Minister Marin, however, was not carrying her official cabinet member phone, even though government members are instructed to have it close by at all times.

Marin continued to party with her husband and friends well into the night at a nightclub in Helsinki.

Marin told Iltalehti that she did not receive updated information until Sunday. She was then tested. She also pointed out that everyone in her group and in the nightclub had valid Covid passes showing vaccination status.

The Prime Minister conceded that she could have acted more cautiously.

"I should have exercised better judgment and also checked the instructions I received twice. I am sorry that I did not understand to do this," Prime Minister Marin concluded.

A costly mistake?

Hufvudstadsbladet's editor-in-chief Erja Yläjärvi writes in a Tuesday commentary that the incident was a very human mistake, but one that may cost Sanna Marin dearly.

As Yläjärvi points out, Marin's handling of the pandemic has already aroused criticism. Add to that the fact that Finnish people have always wanted a leader who respects the rules - and leaving her official phone at home was simply a catastrophic mistake.

She points out that by going out to socialise, Marin, being fully vaccinated and having no symptoms, did nothing that thousands of other Finns don't every day.

"We citizens have every right to demand that the Prime Minister lead by example. But what we demand of Marin - and ourselves - is in the long run quite unsustainable. To always be in crisis, always do even more for safety, always be on the alert. It is as if Sanna Marin is almost openly showing that she is tired, that she does not have the strength to be the leader that Finland should have. Almost like she wants to say "screw it all" and do something else," writes Yläjärvi.

But, this is a luxury politicians don't have, especially not the prime minister.

Hufvudstadsbladet's editor-in-chief predicts that the next few days could be difficult for Marin.

Demonstrations lead to arrests

Helsingin Sanomat is among the papers reporting that police detained 21 people in Helsinki on Monday. Of those 19 were taken into custody for violent counter-protests to the "Helsinki without Nazis" march.

According to police, Monday's demonstrations in the capital were mostly peaceful.

However, a police spokesperson told Helsingin Sanomat that the organiser of the "Helsinki without Nazis" march is now suspected of a breach of laws on public assembly.

Although a route for the march had been agreed upon with police, the march stopped in the early evening on Runeberginkatu to prevent the far-right 612 torch procession from advancing on the same street. Traffic on the street was stopped in both directions.

The "Helsinki without Nazis" march drew approximately 1,500 participants. According to the organisers of the event, the purpose of the procession was to show that "there is no place for the far right on the streets" of the capital.

Electricity prices spiking

Tampere's Aamulehti reports that the price of electricity is expected to show a sharp rise on Tuesday, shooting up to as high as 1,000 euros per megawatt hour on the regional exchange Nordpool.

The average price on Tuesday is projected at 469 per megawatt hour, which is significantly more than in many other European countries.

Cold temperatures and low availability of both wind and hydropower have combined to push up prices.

Households with electricity contracts tied to the exchange price of electricity will see this reflected in billing.

Discarded masks and pets

The local Helsinki paper Helsingin Uutiset tells the tale of Hertta, a cairn terrier who snapped up and swallowed a face mask some litterbug discarded along a jogging path, causing her severe pain, and costing her owner 1,800 euros in veterinary fees.

The paper reports that Helsinki's University Veterinary Hospital says that they have seen several similar incidents, as have private veterinary clinics.

Some dogs, like Hertta, have required major surgery to remove discarded face masks. In some cases, they have been successfully removed by induced vomiting.

A blockage caused by a foreign object is not in itself a rare diagnosis for dogs, who have been known to swallow socks and toys, but discarded face masks are now one more worry for owners.

Cold continues

Independence Day was celebrated in cold conditions all over Finland. The lowest reading this winter, -35.2 degrees Celsius, was measured at Muonio in Lapland on Monday morning.

According to Ilta-Sanomat, the beginning of the week will remain very cold, with the chance of snow in eastern areas on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Lapland will continue to see temperatures of -20 to -30 degrees at least for the next few days.

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