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Friday's papers: 4th Covid jab, housing prices, illegal border crossings

Nearly all of Finland's local governments are ignoring health ministry instructions on a general roll-out of a fourth coronavirus vaccination, Ilta-Sanomat reports.

The border between Finland and Russia near Imatra. Image: Kalle Purhonen / Yle
Yle News

Minister of Family and Basic Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) announced in early November that the Covid-19 vaccinnation programme would be expanded to provide a fourth booster shot to the general population over the age of 18.

The Ministry Social Affairs and Health followed up by issuing instructions on expanding vaccine distribution to municipalities that are responsible for implementing vaccination programmes.

Three weeks later, the situation in Finland is that a fourth vaccination dose is still not available for most people, reports Ilta-Sanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun). The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health told IS that there is no change in the situation in sight, at least this year.

This marks the first time since the start of the pandemic that municipalities have declined to follow the ministry's recommendations.

Instead, local hospital districts, with the exception of Lapland, are observing guidelines established by the National Institute for Health and Welfare THL.

According to THL, providing fourth jabs to basic healthy 18-64-year-olds is not medically justified.

THL recommends booster vaccines only for at-risk groups, people over the age of 60, and people over the age of 12 with severe immunity deficiencies.

It says the risk of serious disease in those who have already received the recommended doses is small, and a fourth dose provides only very weak and short-term protection against infection.

IS writes that the decision by municipalities not to expand vaccination programmes is justified by the fact that serious coronavirus infection rates are currently low, and that municipalities simply do not have enough staff who could vaccinate people more widely without shifting them away from other care services.

Housing prices continue fall

Housing prices fell in various parts of the country in October, according to figures published earlier this week by Statistics Finland.

Iltalehti reports (siirryt toiseen palveluun) that the latest housing market review by Nordea Bank forecasts that the downward trend will continue.

According to Nordea's assessment, the Finnish housing market is still stable, but prices will decline by approximately five percent over the next year.

Increased interest rates and growing supply are having the biggest impact in the capital region.

The prices of small flats have fallen the most. The paper writes that it is likely that higher energy prices will also start being reflected in the prices and sales times of single-family houses, especially of those with direct electric heating.

Iltalehti says that the winners in the current market situation will be first-time home buyers.

Sneaking across the border

Helsingin Sanomat provides readers with a feature article (siirryt toiseen palveluun) on unauthorised crossings of Finland's border with Russia.

The paper examines five cases in which people illegally entered Finland, walking across the border in remote spots.

All but one claimed to have made the journey on their own without help. Even that case, HS says, was not a matter of human smuggling, as the help received was only a paid car trip from Moscow to the border area.

In the cases investigated for the article, those illegally crossing the border either turned themselves in, or continued on foot through the forest until Finnish authorities caught them.

All seemed to have prepared in a similar manner, using the Google maps app and paper maps, carrying food, compasses and wirecutters.

In nine of the five cases the men were prosecuted for criminal offenses. Preliminary charges were dropped against four because they applied for asylum in Finland. Charges were brought against a fifth, but dropped after he was returned to Russia.

Nato and investment

Finland's Ministry for Foreign Affairs this week published a survey of around 4,000 people from 10 countries which found Finland's application for membership in Nato has improved the country's international image.

US Ambassador to Finland Douglas Hickey told Tampere's Aamulehti (siirryt toiseen palveluun) that this is being reflected in the fact that increasing numbers of American companies and investors have become interested in Finland since it applied to Nato.

According to Hickey, Nato is too often thought of only in terms of defense, although it also offers business opportunities.

"I believe that many American companies now look at Finland differently. Finland has never been so interesting before," he told Aamulehti.

As proof of the increased interest, he pointed to the Slush start-up event in Helsinki in mid-November, which he said was attended by 500 American investors this year.

"Finland now has good opportunities to do business in quantum technology, artificial intelligence, 5- and 6G [technology] and green technology," he said.

Helsinki Christmas market open

Helsinki's outdoor Christmas market has opened in the city's Senate Square following a three-year absence.

Hufvudstadsbladet (siirryt toiseen palveluun) reminds readers that the colourful market, fragrant with the smell of mulled wine and filled with the sound of Christmas carols, will be open every day until 22 December.

This year the market is divided into what the paper calls "Christmas gift alleys", with food and delicacies in one double row of booths and craft products in another. About 90 artisans more than 20 food vendors are at the market this year.

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