Coronavirus latest: Finland restricts entry from southern Africa due to new variant, few arrivals so far; fully vaccinated should be able to celebrate Christmas normally, says HUS doctor

This article brings you the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic in Finland.

A healthcare worker holds a Covid-19 test swab. Image: Lehtikuva

Check Yle's dashboard for a range of regional, national and international Covid data.

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28.11 14:53 Almost 80% of entire population fully vaccinated

Nearly 80 percent of the entire Finnish population, or about four million people, have received two doses of coronavirus vaccine, the national health institute THL (siirryt toiseen palveluun) said on Sunday. The number rose by 4,800 since the day before.

Among those aged 12 and over, who are currently eligible for vaccination, the percentage is 81.7 percent.

Meanwhile more than a quarter-million people in risk groups have received a third, booster jab. That number increased from Saturday by 12,800, rising to about five percent of the population.

28.11 14:27 Cabinet to decide on new entry restrictions; few arrivals from southern Africa

The government is to decide on Sunday afternoon about entry restrictions for people arriving from southern Africa, Interior Minister Krista Mikkonen (Green) said on Twitter.

Officials have been scrambling to react to Thursday's news of a new, apparently much more infectious variant of Covid-19, first identified in South Africa last week.

Only a few people have arrived at Helsinki Airport from South Africa in recent days, and they have been asymptomatic, Timo Aronkytö, Deputy Mayor and Head of Health and Social Services in Vantaa, told the Finnish news agency STT on Sunday morning.

Test results from those tested on Saturday will be available on Sunday, but according to Aronkytö, the assumption is that the results are negative.

Details here.

28.11 12:47 Second Covid-era Christmas season launched

This weekend launches the second Covid-era Christmas season in many Finnish towns, with holiday markets and Advent church services.

The opening is being celebrated on a somewhat muted note amid concerns about record-high levels of coronavirus infections.

On Sunday Finland's Lutheran and other Western Christian churches celebrate the beginning of Advent, marking the beginning of the pre-Christmas season. It is usually one of the most widely-attended events of the year at the nation's churches.

In the northern city of Oulu, the opening of the Christmas Street scheduled for Friday in was cancelled due to rising coronavirus infections.

Full story here.

27.11 18:09 HUS head physician: Fully vaccinated should be able to celebrate Christmas normally

Asko Järvinen, head of infectious diseases at Finland's largest health care provider, says that while the new Omicron variant causes uncertainty, most people should be able to gather for the holidays as usual.

"Omicron is causing a small amount of uncertainty, but at the moment it seems that Christmas may be completely normal," he said on Yle TV1's Ykkösaamu current affairs programme on Saturday morning.

Full story here.

27.11 14:05 Ministries: Test arrivals from countries where Omicron variant has been found, avoid travel to southern Africa

The Foreign Ministry has urged Finns to avoid all travel to southern Africa, while the health ministry recommends testing and quarantines for arrivals from regions affected by the new Omicron variant.

You can read more here.

27.11 12:10 Arrivals from southern Africa to be tested and quarantined due to Omicron variant

Helsinki Airport is tightening its health and safety precautions due to a new Covid variant first identified in South Africa, according to Timo Aronkytö, Deputy Mayor of Vantaa, where the airport is located. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called it a variant "of concern" and named it Omicron.

In a tweet on Saturday morning, Aronkytö said that everyone arriving from southern Africa will be directed to mandatory inspection, Covid testing and quarantine.

"Planes arriving from Munich and Frankfurt will be checked," Aronkytö wrote.

Details here.

26.11 19:27 No ban on flights from southern Africa

Public health authority THL has recommended that people in Finland avoid traveling to southern Africa because of a new coronavirus variant that is believed to be highly contagious.

The European Commission plans to propose the suspension of air travel from southern Africa, according to media reports, but authorities in Finland have so far made no decision on passengers arriving from the region.

More on this story here.

26.11 17:48 VR to request Covid pass in restaurant car

Finland's national rail carrier VR has announced that passengers will be asked to show a Covid pass in order to be served in the restaurant carriage of trains.

The new measure will come into effect from Sunday, 28 November.

Read more here.

26.11 13:13 Experts worried by variant found in southern Africa

Finnish specialists say they are "worried" about the emergence of a new coronavirus variant with an unusually high number of mutations first detected in southern Africa.

Full story here.

26.11 13:02 Restaurant restrictions tighten

Finland has confirmed new restrictions on restaurants, in an effort to slow the spread of Covid. Read more here.

26.11 12:38 Daily cases hits new record high

Public health authority THL has registered 1,406 lab-confirmed coronavirus infections on Friday, a new record high number of daily cases. The previous record high, 1,344 infections, was recorded just 24 hours previously on Thursday.

THL further reported on Friday that there are currently 336 patients being treated in hospitals for the virus, an increase of 30 from Thursday. Some 44 patients are being treated in intensive care units. There have also been seven further deaths linked to the virus over the past 24 hours, bringing Finland's overall toll from the pandemic to 1,309.

26.11 9:40 Vaccination coverage low among foreign population

Our paper review looks at rates of Covid vaccine coverage among foreign-language speakers in Finland. They're well below the overall figure, for several reasons. Read more here.

25.11 17:45 Uusimaa reintroduces face mask, remote work recommendations

The Helsinki metropolitan area coronavirus coordination group has now re-issued its recommendations regarding the use of face masks and remote working for the entire region of Uusimaa.

All people above the age of 12 are instructed to wear a face mask in public spaces such as when in shops and transport, regardless of their vaccination status. The recommendations will be valid over the winter holidays, at least until January 16, 2022.

25.11 15:28 Finland tightens restrictions, reveals new vaccine strategy

Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) on Thursday announced the extension of the Communicable Disease Act into June 2022 as well as updated restrictions on the operations and opening hours of bars and restaurants.

According to the updated measures, bars and restaurants that do not require customers to show a Covid pass must stop serving at 5pm and close their doors at 6pm. In order to operate without restrictions, staff must ask for the Covid pass at all times.

The minister also revealed that the government is preparing a new vaccination strategy which will see vaccines rolled out to children aged between 5 and 11, and booster doses offered to people under the age of 60.

Read more on this story here.

25.11 15:05 President cancels Independence Day gala

This year's Independence Day gala, which was set to take place with a limited number of guests at Helsinki's Presidential Palace on 6 December, has been cancelled.

According to a press release (siirryt toiseen palveluun) from the President's Office, the event has been called off due to the worsening Covid-19 situation in the country.

More details here.

25.11 14:20 THL: Unvaccinated patients overwhelming hospitals

The rapidly rising number of coronavirus infections, especially among unvaccinated individuals, is placing an increasing burden on hospital wards and intensive care units, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL said on Thursday.

At the end of last week, there were a total of 156 patients being treated in hospitals across Finland for the virus. As of Thursday afternoon, that figure stands at 306.

According to the figures released by THL on Thursday, the number of unjabbed patients is three or four times higher across all age groups except those over 30 years of age.

"The number of unvaccinated people in both hospital and intensive care is much higher than that of people who have been vaccinated twice," Mia Kontio of THL told the Thursday morning briefing.

Read more here.

25.11 13:25 Vaccination rates rising among minority language groups

While Covid-19 vaccination rates among language minorities in Finland remained low over the summer, there has been a 40 percent increase in vaccination coverage in all language groups since then, according to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

According to Maria Kontio, Chief Specialist at THL, the vaccination coverage for foreign language speakers in Finland currently stands at 56 percent.

25.11 12:13 THL: Finland sees new daily cases record high

Finland has reported 1,344 new Covid cases on Thursday, the highest number of infections reported over any 24-hour period since the beginning of the pandemic. This is according to the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

Most of the cases, nearly 500, were detected in the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS).

25.11 10:10 Nordea withdraws vaccine-critical analysis report

Financial group Nordea has launched an internal investigation into a controversial investment analysis that was accused of blatantly promoting anti-vaccine views, according to a report on Thursday morning by Iltalehti.

The analysis, which was published on the bank's website on Sunday, reportedly criticised Covid-19 restrictions which "imprison the unvaccinated" and claimed that vaccines increase the risk of infections, rather than fighting them.

Read more on this story, and the rest of our Thursday morning paper review, here.

24.11 19:30 Events industry calls for Covid pass at all venues

With coronavirus infection rates rising, organisers of cultural events are once again worried about how to survive.

The events industry says that current patchwork coronavirus restrictions by regional authorities are confusing, and that the Covid pass should be quickly introduced throughout the country.

According to Maria Sahlstedt, director of communications at the Event Industry Association, there is strong support for requiring the Covid pass (officially the EU Digital Covid Certificate) at all public events throughout the sector.

You can read more here.

24.11 14:27 Think tank: Forestry, car batteries key to Covid recovery

The forest products industry, car batteries and other electrical and electronic industries are pulling Finland out of the coronavirus crisis, according to Etla Economic Research (previously the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy).

Etla's industrial review indicates that numerous industries are now on a growth trajectory. The institute estimates that exports in the forest products industry will increase by about 15 percent this year, with paper exports up by 10 percent.

Read more on this story here.

24.11 14:06 THL records 39 deaths on Wednesday, includes delayed reports

Public health authority THL registered 39 Covid-related deaths on Wednesday. This is the highest number of deaths reported over any 24-hour period since the beginning of the pandemic, but the authority explained that Wednesday's toll includes delayed reports from October and earlier in November.

Finland's overall death toll from the pandemic now stands at 1,302.

There are currently just over 300 people being treated in hospital for the virus, a drop of about 20 patients since Monday. Forty-two patients are receiving intensive care treatment.

The authority also reported that about 3,000 people have received their second dose of the vaccine over the past 24 hours, while a first dose has been administered to 1,600 people over the same period.

Just over 81 percent of the population aged 12 and over have received two doses of vaccine, while 86.4 percent have received at least one. Four percent have been administered third booster jabs.

24.11 13:13 Cabinet to consider new restrictions next week

Finland's government will discuss the possible introduction of more restrictions aimed at curbing the recent uptick in Covid infections at a ministerial meeting early next week, Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) said on Wednesday.

"The coronavirus situation is worrying," Marin said. "It is now more important than ever that everyone gets the vaccines available to them."

Full story here.

23.11 17:25 Mask, distance working recommendations reinstated across Helsinki region

Due to the worsening epidemic situation, on Tuesday the Helsinki metropolitan area coronavirus coordination group announced it had tightened recommendations regarding people's use of face masks in public places, regardless of their vaccination status.

Read more here.

23.11 15:47 Telecommuting recommendations re-issued in Southwest Finland, Pirkanmaa

The coronavirus coordination group of Southwest Finland has reinstated recommendations for people across the region to work remotely, if possible.

The guidance is not mandatory but a strong recommendation, according to a statement by the group.

According to the group, the epidemic situation has deteriorated at such a rapid pace that new methods of preventing the spread of Covid need to be taken.

In October, the Finnish government lifted nationwide telecommuting recommendations while simultaneously handing over the responsibility of issuing such guidance to local authorities.

The Southwest Finland coordination group also issued a strong recommendation for everyone — including fully-vaccinated individuals — to wear face masks in all situations where it is not possible to maintain safe distances from others, both indoors and outdoors.

A coronavirus coordination group in Pirkanmaa has also issued similar recommendations.

23.11 12:50 THL: Finland records 1,088 new cases, 5 deaths on Tuesday

There were 1,088 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases diagnosed across Finland over the past day on Tuesday, according to the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

The largest proportion of cases (403) were seen in the Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district.

Meanwhile, THL reported on Tuesday there were five new Covid-related fatalities in the country. While the agency does not issue reports on such deaths on a daily basis, THL reported on Monday that the country recorded nine deaths over the weekend.

As of Tuesday, Finland's overall Covid death toll stood at 1,263, according to THL.

23.11 09:37 Covid hospitalisations reach all-time high

According to the latest data from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), hospitals in Finland had more Covid-19 patients than ever before on Monday.

As of Monday, 322 people had been hospitalised after contracting the virus, compared to 284 a week ago and 255 the week before that. The Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS) has had to increase its ICU units from 15 to 21 to accommodate the growing number of Covid-19 patients requiring critical care.

Hospitals are also facing an additional burden from patients falling ill from other viruses, namely, the seasonal flu and the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Read more on this story here.

22.11 13:28 Covid cases overburdening Helsinki's health centres

With a fifth wave of the pandemic gaining pace in Finland, health centres in the capital are struggling to clear backlogs, according to Timo Lukkarinen, medical director at the City of Helsinki.

Helsinki's health centres operate a callback service. Lukkarinen told Yle the capital's 23 public clinics can receive up to 2,000 calls per week that staff don't have time to respond to, despite the fact that the law stipulates that nurses should evaluate next steps for callers within 36 hours.

Read more on this story here.

22.11 12:15 Hospital figures hit record high

Public health authority THL announced on Monday that 2,616 new lab-confirmed coronavirus infections were diagnosed in Finland over the weekend. This brings Finland's overall total since the beginning of the pandemic to 177,439.

The authority also reported nine further deaths linked to the virus over the weekend. Finland's overall toll now stands at 1,258.

As of Monday afternoon, there are 322 people being treated in hospitals across the country for the virus - an increase of 45 patients from Friday - and is the highest number of hospital patients than at any other point in the pandemic. Some 43 patients are being treated in intensive care units.

22.11 9:32 Papers: Finland's anti-vaxx problem

It's only a matter of time before every person in Finland is exposed to coronavirus, according to vaccine specialist Mika Rämet.

Ilta-Sanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun) reports him saying that the current vaccination coverage will land 30,000 people in the hospital over the next year.

Read more on this story, and the rest of our Monday morning paper review, here.

21.11 15:40 Fifth Covid wave hitting Finland

Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District's (HUS) Chief Physician, Asko Järvinen, told Ilta-Sanomat on Sunday that Finland will need new restrictions to protect those unvaccinated against coronavirus.

Finland has recorded around 1,000 daily cases over the past week, causing a fifth wave of the pandemic to gain pace in the country, according to Järvinen.

More on this story here.

21.11 11:25 Demonstrators protest coronavirus measures

Some 1,500 people gathered in downtown Helsinki on Saturday to protest efforts to curb the virus.

More here.

19.11 12:15 Finland reports 1,191 cases on Friday

Public health authority THL has recorded 1,191 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases on Friday.

This figure is just short of the 1,259 cases registered on Thursday -- which was the highest daily case count in the pandemic so far -- and means that Finland has recorded 11,800 cases over the past two weeks. This is 3,400 more infections that the previous 14-day period.

19.11 10:28 THL recommends boosters for healthcare staff

Finland's National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) is recommending that anyone taking care of people at risk of a serious Covid infection should get a third dose of Covid vaccine.

In addition, THL says that local authorities should consider giving booster shots to other care staff to try and ensure services can withstand high demand this winter.

Read more here.

19.11 8:55 Covid uptick in winter

Covid cases are set to increase during the winter, but some experts remain optimistic about the spring as Covid goes from pandemic to endemic. Read more in our paper review.

18.11. 14:25 Uusimaa authorities place restrictions on indoor events, large gatherings

The Regional State Administrative Agency of Southern Finland (Avi) has announced the reintroduction of restrictions on public events in the Uusimaa region, specifically in so-called 'high-risk' indoor arenas, such as live music venues, that require audiences to stand.

Read more here.

18.11. 12:42 THL: Unvaccinated people 33 times more likely to need ICU treatment

Unvaccinated individuals are 33 times more likely to require intensive care unit (ICU) treatment than double-jabbed people, and 19 times more likely to need hospital care, according to figures released on Thursday by public health authority THL.

Read more here.

18.11 12:10 THL registers record high number of daily cases

Public health authority THL has registered 1,259 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours. This is the highest number of daily cases reported throughout the entire Covid epidemic.

Finland's overall total number of infections since the beginning of the epidemic now stands at 173,632.

The authority also reported 10 further deaths linked to the virus since yesterday, bringing Finland's toll from the virus to 1,246.

There are also currently 299 people receiving hospital care for the virus, of whom 38 are in IC units.

17.11 19:08 Top doc calls for mandatory vaccination order

The City of Vaasa's Chief Physician Heikki Kaukoranta has called on authorities to introduce mandatory vaccination for every resident in Finland aged 12 years and above.

Kaukoranta told Yle he is concerned about the rapidly increasing number of infections across the country, saying a compulsory vaccination order would be the solution.

Read more here.

17.11 16:59 President plans downsized Independence Day gala

Due to the Covid situation, invitations to this year's Independence Day gala at Helsinki's Presidential Palace on 6 December will be limited to 200 guests, President Sauli Niinistö announced on Wednesday.

Under normal circumstances, the Finnish president and his or her spouse greet up to 2,000 guests at the annual gala, but last year the event was called off entirely due to the coronavirus epidemic.

Read more on this story here.

17.11 16:48 Covid pass required for entry to Tampere Hall

Tampere Hall announced on Wednesday that people attending events at the venue will be asked to show a Covid pass in order to gain entry, effective immediately.

The venue said that the reason for the change in requirements is that the lobby areas of the hall are classified as restaurant space and therefore the need for the pass must apply to the entire building.

"There was really no other option," Tampere Hall CEO Pauliina Ahokas told Yle, adding that the matter was reviewed from the perspective of customers, restaurant operators and event organisers.

17.11 13:58 THL: New cases continue to rise

Over the past two weeks, Finland recorded around 11,000 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases, which is approximately 3,100 more than during the previous two-week period, the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported.

The agency also reported on Wednesday there were 1,151 new coronavirus cases diagnosed over the past day.

Meanwhile, there are increasing numbers of people requiring hospital care for coronavirus-related illness, with 299 such patients in hospitals across the country, 38 of whom in intensive care, as of Wednesday. Those figures reflect increases of six more people in hospital and two in ICU since Monday.

THL also reported three new Covid-related fatalities, bringing the country's overall death toll to 1,236 as of Wednesday.

17.11 13:53 Chief docs: Finland in no hurry to roll out vaccine boosters

Finland is in no hurry to broadly roll out third Covid vaccine booster shots, as two jabs already protects the majority of the population from severe complications caused by the virus.

That's the opinion of chief physician Hanna Nohynek from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), and Sally Leskinen, the chief medical officer at the Kanta-Häme hospital district.

Read more here.

17.11 10:11 Paper: HUS transfers ICU patients due to overload

The hospital district of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS) has begun transferring Covid-19 patients requiring critical care to other parts of Finland due to a lack of capacity, according to newspaper Helsingin Sanomat

HUS is currently setting up six intensive care units in addition to its existing 15 to keep up with the growing demand.

Read more about this and other stories in Wednesday's newspaper review.

16.11 17:04 Uusimaa to restrict indoor gatherings

Uusimaa is to see new restrictions on gatherings announced on Thursday and in force a week later, as the region centred on Helsinki struggles to deal with an upsurge in Covid cases.

Read more here.

16.11 12:04 THL: 937 new cases on Tuesday

The Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported there were 937 new lab-confirmed Covid cases diagnosed over the past day in Finland on Tuesday, according to news service STT.

Over the past two weeks there were nearly 10,900 new Covid cases detected, which is more than 3,100 more cases than the previous two-week period, according to the health authority.

There were an additional three new Covid-related fatalities recorded in Finland, bringing the country's overall epidemic death toll to 1,233. On Monday THL reported 14 deaths caused by the disease.

16.11 9:22 Covid cases surge among kids

Today's paper review looks at the prospects of requiring employees to have a Covid pass, increased infection rates among children, and a call for tighter restrictions to try and slow down the epidemic. Read more here.

15.11 18:30 Yle: Finland raising restrictions

The Regional State Administrative Agency of Southwest Finland (Avi) has ordered new coronavirus-related restrictions, capping the number of participants permitted to attend meetings and public events at 50 people.

The new rules go into effect on Tuesday 16 November and will be in place for one month.

However, the new restrictions will not apply to events and establishments that use the Covid pass, according to Avi's Heikki Mäki.

Avi made the decision based on guidance from the social affairs and health ministry as well as a local expert assessment in the hospital district of Southwest Finland.

"Despite well-advanced Covid vaccinations, the situation is currently very critical and the decision was deemed to be necessary, Mäki said, who added he has already been in contact with organisers of large events on Monday morning and that he had received positive feedback about the decision.

Government talks restaurant restrictions on Monday evening

According to Yle information, the Finnish government is holding an extraordinary meeting on Monday evening to decide on whether to extend coronavirus-related restrictions on restaurants and bars.

The government will not be tightening current restrictions, but rather expand them in four new areas, including Northern Ostrobothnia, Pirkanmaa, Kanta-Häme and the Länsi-Pohja hospital district.

Restrictions are already in place in Southern and Central Ostrobothnia, Kymenlaakso, Ostrobothnia, Päijät-Häme, Satakunta, Uusimaa as well as Southwest Finland.

However, establishments that use the Covid pass will be able to circumvent the restrictions.

The eventual restrictions decided on Monday are to take effect on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) has characterised Finland's current epidemic situation as being serious and the Minister for Family and Basic Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) has called for increased restrictions aimed at people who are not vaccinated against Covid.

15.11 13:42 Pirkanmaa region sees record single-day positive tests

The Pirkanmaa hospital district reported a record 158 persons tested positive for the coronavirus on Sunday, surpassing the previous single-day high of 106 on 6 August 2021. As of Monday, the incidence rate for the latest 14 day period in the region was at 185.5 per 100,000 residents according to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL.

15.11 12:13 THL: Finland sees 3,166 new cases since Thursday

The Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported on Monday that Finland recorded 3,166 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases since Thursday.

The agency normally issues updates on new coronavirus cases on weekdays but due to a technical problem did not issue the update on Friday, a situation that caused Monday's figure to be unusually high.

The largest number of cases recorded during that period (1,298) were seen in the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District.

Meanwhile, hospitals across Finland were treating 293 patients for Covid-related illness, 36 of whom were in intensive care, as of Monday.

The health agency also reported 14 new coronavirus-related fatalities since Friday.

15.11. 9:27 MPs to weigh workplace Covid passports

A citizens' initiative opposing the introduction of Covid passports in workplaces has gathered the required 50,000 signatures needed to be taken up by Parliament.

You can read more in Monday morning's Finnish press roundup.

14.11. 15:37 80.5% fully vaccinated

Finland's Covid vaccination coverage is slowly climbing.

The Finnish institute for health and welfare (THL) on Sunday said 80.5 percent of residents over the age of 12 were double jabbed. Some 86.2 percent of those eligible for the vaccine had received one shot by Sunday.

12.11. 16:32 Helsinki authorities mull reintroduction of event restrictions

The Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland (Avi) announced on Friday that it is considering tightening restrictions on events in the Uusimaa region, following recommendations from the Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group.

The coordination group has suggested limiting the number of attendees at indoor concerts to at least 50 percent of the normal capacity. It also recommends imposing stricter restrictions on events at indoor sports stadiums.

12.11. 14:29 Minister Kiuru confirms Covid exposure

Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) has announced via a tweet (siirryt toiseen palveluun) on Friday afternoon that she has been exposed to a Covid-infected person and will work remotely until further notice.

"I have been exposed to the coronavirus. Despite being fully vaccinated, I will work remotely as a precautionary measure,," Kiuru wrote.

12.11. 14:03 Tampere prepares for introduction of Covid pass

The City of Tampere is making preparations for libraries, museums and sports facilities in the city to begin asking customers for a Covid pass. The possible introduction of the pass will be discussed at a meeting of the city's board on Monday 15 November.

Use of the Covid pass in the city could be adopted if authorities decide to impose restrictions on public gatherings or limit how many people can be in a certain place -- such as a gym or restaurant -- at the same time.

12.11. 9:38 Third shots reach 2%

Friday morning's newspaper roundup explores Finland's Covid booster shot rollout, among other topics.

Some 2.4 percent of double-jabbed individuals have so far received a third dose offered six months after their second shot.

Read more here.

11.11 17:01 EU: Finnish economy covered from crisis in mid-2021

The European Commission has raised its prognosis for Finland's economic growth. On Thursday the Commission forecast GDP growth of 3.4 percent in Finland this year, up from its previous estimate of 2.7 percent.

According to the Commission, economic activity in Finland recovered to pre-pandemic levels in the middle of this year.

Read more here.

11.11 13:00 THL urges caution as festive season approaches

Finland's Covid situation looks to be getting worse, with increasing case counts, higher test positivity and greater strain on hospitals and healthcare providers — just as the run-up to Christmas prompts greater social mixing and therefore possible exposures to Covid.

That's according to the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and the Ministry for Social Affairs and Health at their weekly Covid briefing.

Full story here.

11.11 11:11 Hospitality group decries extension of restrictions

The government decided late Wednesday to extend current restaurant restrictions, a move which the Finnish Hospitality Association MaRa condemned as "unnecessary" and "unreasonable".

Restrictions were originally scheduled to expire on Monday.

More details here.

11.11 9:47 No 'emergency brake'

On Wednesday evening government ministers agreed not to bring in special rules to take back powers from regional agencies. Read more in our paper review here.

10.11 19:00 Pandemic worsens in Kemi-Tornio, Kymenlaakso

Health officials in southwest Lapland declared on Wednesday that the Covid situation in the Länsi-Pohja healthcare district has worsened, re-entering the community transmission phase.

Also on Wednesday, officials said the situation had weakened in the Kymenlaakso region of southeast Finland, where nine patients are receiving hospital treatment for Covid. The largest numbers of new cases are in the cities of Kouvola and Kotka.

More details here.

10.11 14:06 HUS boss calls for clearer decision-making

The Acting Managing Director of the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS), Markku Mäkijärvi, said the government needs to clarify how it makes decisions about Covid-related restrictions.

"I would like to see more clarity about the roles and responsibilities of ministries and regional decision-makers," he told Yle TV1's breakfast show on Wednesday.

He made the comments a day after the hospital district announced that it was raising its preparedness levels in order to deal with increasing numbers of Covid patients needing hospital care.

You can read more here.

10.11 13:08 80% vaccination coverage among 12-and-overs

The Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) announced on Wednesday that Finland has finally achieved 80 percent double-dose vaccination coverage for those aged 12 years and over. The figure had remained at 79.9 percent since Sunday.

In total, more than eight million doses of Covid vaccine have been administered in Finland since December 2020. More than 85 percent of those aged 12 and over have received at least their first dose.

All age groups over 45 in have more than 80 percent vaccination coverage for the second dose.

“Recently we have seen that vaccination coverage of young people has risen encouragingly. Indeed, those aged 16-24 have exceeded 80 percent vaccination coverage for the first dose,” said Mia Kontio, a chief specialist at THL.

A third booster vaccine is currently being offered to those in risk groups, with 2.3 percent of the population aged 12 and over have received three jabs.

9.11 18:27 Some restaurants use Covid pass only when it suits them, THL boss says

The Institute for Health and Welfare's (THL) health security director, Mika Salminen, has said he is dissatisfied with how several restaurants and bars have selectively used the Covid pass.

A Covid pass is a certificate which states whether the holder has been fully vaccinated, has recovered from the virus, or has recently tested negative. Customer-facing businesses like restaurants and gyms can require people to show their Covid status in order to bypass epidemic-related restrictions, which can limit things like opening and alcohol sale hours as well as cap the number of customers permitted inside.

However, Salminen said that some establishments operate under the restriction rules during weekdays and then only require customers to show Covid passes on the weekends.

Read more here.

9.11 12:53 THL: Finland records 9 new Covid deaths on Tuesday

The Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported nine new Covid-related fatalities on Tuesday, bringing the country' epidemic death toll to 1,209.

9.11 12:52 Government to discuss worsening epidemic situation on Wednesday

Prime Minister Sanna Marin's (SDP) government is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss the Covid situation. According to information obtained by Yle, the coalition government members plan to gather at the Helsinki House of Estates at 4pm.

The government has faced increased pressure to align its strategies and plans as new cases as well as Covid-related hospitalisations continue to rise. The disease is particularly prevalent among unvaccinated individuals.

At the beginning of September, the government approved a new Covid strategy. According to the new plan, the dismantling of epidemic-related restrictions hinges on at least 80 percent of the population being fully vaccinated against the disease.

9.11 12:13 Finland sees 810 new cases on Tuesday

Finland recorded 810 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases over the past day on Tuesday, according to the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), bringing the country's total confirmed Covid case count to more than 165,300.

The highest number of new cases, 392, were diagnosed in the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District, while the second-highest number of cases, 85, was seen in the hospital district of Pirkanmaa.

9.11 8:38 HS: The carrot or the stick?

Helsingin Sanomat wonders on Tuesday morning if we may find ourselves in a world where a compulsory vaccination is required in some sectors, a strict Covid "passport" is implemented, or even lockdowns imposed on the unvaccinated.

Mika Salminen, Director of Health Security at the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), stressed to the paper that he hopes that there will not a polarisation of society.

"We know that coercion will not solve the problem of the slowdown in vaccination uptake, but may even lead to a worsening of attitudes," said Salminen.

"Carrots are always a better option. The starting point must be to share the right information and make it understandable," he added.

Read more on this story, and the rest of our Tuesday morning paper review, here.

8.11 19:08 Study: Covid most contagious at +10 degrees

When coronavirus first appeared, it was not thought that meteorological or temperature differences had a major effect on the virus' ability to spread.

However, a newly-published international study has shown that the weather can affect infection rates in several ways. But it also found little evidence that meteorological conditions particularly influenced local spreads of Covid-19, concluding that people's behaviour and government interventions had a larger impact on infection rates.

Read more here.

8.11 14:34 Hospitalised patient numbers rise again

The number of people requiring hospital care for coronavirus-related illnesses has increased, according to the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

As of Monday, there were a total of 256 people receiving hospital treatment for Covid-19 across Finland, which is 15 more than there were on Friday. Meanwhile, 34 of those patients were being treated in intensive care units.

Finland reported there were 16 new Covid-related fatalities, bringing the virus' overall death toll to 1,200.

8.11 14:26 THL: Finland sees 2,000 new cases over the weekend

Finnish health authorities on Monday reported 2,016 new lab-confirmed coronavirus infections in the country since Friday, according to the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

Regionally, the most cases over the weekend (832) were seen in the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District.

As of Monday, Finland has recorded a total of 164,492 confirmed Covid-19 cases since the beginning of the epidemic.

8.11 9:01 HS: Telecommuting troubles

Many people in Finland have had to switch to working from home, or telecommuting, during the coronavirus pandemic - and Helsingin Sanomat reports that this can have both advantages and disadvantages for the telecommuter and their family.

One reader said they had suffered from loneliness and anxiety caused by the situation for almost two years. "Does my spouse's employer have the right to take my own home from me and turn it into an office?"

Read more on this story, and the rest of our Monday morning paper review, here.

7.11 13:22 Full vaccination rate to hit 80% on Monday

Finland is set to reach the 80 percent target for full vaccinations among those aged 12 and over on Monday, more than a week after the government's target date. On Sunday the figure rose to 79.9 percent (siirryt toiseen palveluun). Meanwhile 86 percent have received at least one jab, and just over two percent have gotten third booster shots.

Just over 70 percent of the whole population are now fully inoculated. The National Advisory Committee on Vaccines (Krar) is expected to issue its opinion on extending vaccinations to children aged 5-11 in late November or early December.

7.11 13:08 Pandemic-hit zoo may return pandas to China

Ähtäri Zoo in western Finland faces financial trouble due to last year's drop in visitors due to coronavirus restrictions, and says it only received a fraction of promised state pandemic support. As a result, the local mayor says it may have to give up its star attractions, two giant pandas whose upkeep costs a million euros annually.

You can read more here.

6.11 17:30 Most Finns say restaurant and events sectors hardest hit

Most people in Finland think that the restaurant and events industries have suffered the most from the pandemic, according to a survey (siirryt toiseen palveluun) published by the Foundation for Municipal Development on Saturday.

Nine out of 10 respondents said that those working in the restaurant, culture, arts and event sectors, as well as entrepreneurs in the tourism sector, have suffered quite a lot or very much from the crisis.

6.11 17:20 Vaccination rate remains below 80%

The share of the population aged 12 and over who are fully vaccinated has still not quite reached the target of 80 percent, which the government had hoped for by the end of October. As of Saturday afternoon, the figure stood at 79.7 percent, while nearly 86 percent had received at least one shot. Just over two percent have received a third booster shot.

As of Friday there were just over 200 patients in hospital, with 29 in intensive care. That number has remained below 40 since April. The death toll rose by eight to 1,184.

5.11 9:20 IS: Vaccination take-up varies by profession

As Finland approaches the target of a coronavirus vaccination rate of 80 percent of those aged 12 and over, tabloid Ilta-Sanomat looks at a study showing large variation in rates according to profession.

The report by the Helsinki Graduate School of Economics (GSE) compared vaccine coverage between employees in different industries.

It found, for example, about a quarter of those working in the construction sector have not been vaccinated, while only seven percent of those working in the financial and insurance sectors have not yet had a jab.

Read more on this story, and the rest of our Friday morning paper review, here.

4.11 15:22 Students increasingly need mental health services

The coronavirus pandemic continues to take a heavy toll on the mental well-being of students even after a return to Finland's university campuses.

Demand among university students for mental health services this autumn has been higher than total annual levels in the past, according to the Finnish Student Health Service (FSHS).

Read more on this story here.

4.11 12:43 Decision to vaccinate children 5-11 still open

Health authorities have not yet made a decision on whether or not children 5-11 years of age are to be included in Finland's coronavirus vaccination programme.

THL's National Vaccine Expert Group is currently preparing a report on the subject, which is expected to be completed by the turn of November-December. THL will then make a recommendation for or against vaccination to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. A final decision will be made by the government.

3.11 15:53 More Covid patients in Finland's hospitals

The Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported on Wednesday that the number of people receiving hospital treatment for Covid in Finland increased over the past day by 12 to 238 patients, 32 of whom are in intensive care units.

THL also reported six additional Covid-related fatalities, bringing the country's epidemic death toll to 1,776.

Meanwhile, the health agency reported 890 new Covid cases — along with 260 previously unreported cases — over the past day on Wednesday. THL initially reported there were 1,150 cases over the past day, but later clarified the figures.

2.11 12:18 Finland sees 807 new cases, 3 deaths on Tuesday

There were on Tuesday 807 new lab-confirmed cases of Covid-19 registered in Finland over the past 24 hours, the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported. The country has logged a total of nearly 160,000 coronavirus infections since the beginning of the epidemic.

Most of Tuesday's cases (365) were diagnosed in the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District and the second-most (73) were seen in the hospital district of Pirkanmaa.

THL also reported on Tuesday there were three additional Covid-related fatalities in Finland over the past day.

2.11 10:18 Minister: Use of Covid pass could be expanded

Finland's Ministry of Family Affairs and Social Services is currently investigating whether use of the Covid pass could be extended, for example in regions where there are no restrictions, according to a statement by Minister Krista Kiuru (SDP).

"A legal assessment will resolve the issue. Then we will find out what the possibilities are in that regard," Kiuru said.

Currently the Covid pass is used only as an alternative to restrictions, such as how many people can attend a public event or be in a restaurant at the same time.

1.11 13:46 Demand grows for deworming medicine in Finland

The pandemic has increased demand in Finland for ivermectin, a trend also witnessed in other parts of the world, despite research showing no significant impact of the anti-parasitic drug on treating Covid.

Some ivermectin studies have even been downright fraudulent, according to The Guardian (siirryt toiseen palveluun).

Ivermectin has been used to cure animals and people from worms and lice since the 1980s. Finnish pharmacies sell the drug under the brand name Stromectol, produced by US drug maker Merck.

Read more on this story here.

1.11 12:12 Finland reports over 1,400 cases, 12 further deaths since Friday

Public health authority THL has reported a total of 1,460 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases since Friday, bringing Finland's total number of infections since the beginning of the pandemic to 158,991.

The authority also registered 12 further deaths linked to the virus since Friday. Finland's death toll now stands at 1,170.

30.10 15:09 THL preparing draft recommendation on vaccinating kids

Hanna Nohynek, chief physician with public health agency THL, said on Saturday that the agency is currently working on a draft recommendation for Finland to begin vaccinating children aged between 5 and 11 years old against the Covid virus.

The move comes after a panel of experts from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration FDA said the benefits of jabbing children with the Pfizer vaccine outweigh any other health risks.

Currently Finland has vaccinated just under 70 percent of the entire population of the country, while 75 percent have received at least one dose.

29.10 18:15 THL wants Covid pass for care staff

THL wants to bring in Covid pass rules for staff in care homes, to try and raise the vaccine coverage rate among healthcare staff. At present some 80 percent of healthcare staff in Finland are fully vaccinated. Read our story here.

29.10 11:12 Cross-border traffic may be on Niinistö-Putin agenda

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö meets with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Friday at the Kremlin in Moscow. The meeting comes just as the Russian capital heads into lockdown amid record-high daily Covid-19 death tolls.

Bilateral issues on the table may include the impact of Russia's coronavirus surge on cross-border traffic during the upcoming holiday season.

Allegro express trains between Helsinki and St. Petersburg are due to resume traffic before the Christmas season. Last week Russian media reported that the service might re-start on 12 December, but this depends on agreement on Covid restrictions between the two countries' authorities.

Unlike neighbouring Estonia, Finland does not allow entry by visitors who have received the Russian Sputnik vaccine rather than EU-approved jabs.

The Allegro train has not operated between Helsinki and St. Petersburg for a year and a half.

More on this story here.

28.10 13:46 Passport boosts vaccinations among young adults

The Covid-19 situation in Finland has remained largely unchanged over the past couple of weeks, according to officials from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

The introduction of the Covid passport seems to have increased the willingness of people under 35 to take their first dose of coronavirus vaccine. An increasing number of restaurants, bars and clubs are requiring a valid pass for entry, as this allows them to remain open later.

There has also been a rise in vaccinations among youngsters aged 12-15. This may be partly explained by travel related to last week’s autumn school holidays.

More details here.

28.10 12:54 THL: 673 new cases

Public health authority THL has confirmed 673 new coronavirus infections on Thursday. Finland's total number of infections since the beginning of the pandemic now stands at 156,959.

The agency reported that the highest increase in case numbers came from the Helsinki and Uusimaa district, with 250 new infections.

28.10 12:45 Finland to help Covid-hit Latvia

Finland intends to respond to Latvia's request for assistance due to the country's deteriorating Covid situation, Safety and Health Department adviser Lasse Ilkka from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health told Yle Radio Suomi on Thursday.

Read more here.

27.10 16:13 STT: Bar, restaurant restrictions to be extended

Citing government sources, news agency STT reported that Finland's government parties have unanimously agreed that coronavirus-related restaurant and bar restrictions should be extended even after they are scheduled to expire at the end of this month.

The news agency said the government is reviewing this week how the restrictions could be extended.

Read more here.

27.10 12:25 THL: 739 new cases as hospitalisations decline

Public health authority THL has confirmed 739 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday. Finland's total number of infections since the beginning of the pandemic now stands at 156,286.

The agency also reported a slight decrease in the number of people receiving treatment in hospitals for the virus, down to 206 from 215 on Monday. There have also been no further Covid-related fatalities in Finland since THL last reported the latest figures on Monday. Finland's death toll from the pandemic therefore remains at 1,150.

27.10 8:57 Papers: Experts disagree over travel to Estonia

Helsingin Sanomat's main story on Wednesday morning concerns (siirryt toiseen palveluun) a difference of opinion between two of Finland's top pandemic specialists over how safe it currently is to travel to Estonia or the other Baltic nations.

Pasi Pohjola of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health tells HS that Finnish authorities have been monitoring the rapidly deteriorating pandemic situation in Estonia "with concern".

However, public health agency THL's Director of Health Security Mika Salminen believes fully vaccinated people can make trips across the Baltic Sea.

Read more on this story, and the rest of our Wednesday morning paper review, here.

25.10 18:43 Survey: Business travel won't return to pre-Covid levels

It appears very unlikely that Finland's business travel will return to pre-Covid levels, according to an informal Yle survey of more than two dozen of the country's top-listed companies.

Yle asked 30 firms listed at the top of the Nasdaq Helsinki stock exchange about their plans for the future. A total of 25 replied to the survey, with nearly all of them saying that, looking ahead, they are planning significantly less business-related air travel than before the Covid crisis began.

Read more here.

25.10 14:01 THL: 1,700 new cases, 11 deaths

The Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) on Monday said there were 1,732 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases reported in Finland since Friday, the last time such figures were reported.

The institute also reported 11 additional Covid-related fatalities in Finland, bringing the country's epidemic death toll to 1,150.

As of Monday there were 215 Covid patients receiving care in the country's hospitals, 34 of whom were in intensive care units.

The number of Covid patients in ICU wards increased by four over the weekend, while the number of patients in hospital care rose by 10.

Blog continues after photo

A Covid-19 patient in an intensive care unit at Turku University Hospital (Tyks). Image: Arash Matin / Yle

25.10 11:35 Transport operators end mandatory mask order

VR and HSL said passengers can continue to wear face coverings if they wish to do so in accordance with the national mask recommendation.

HSL introduced the mask mandate in March this year, as Finland's infection rate spiralled, but said it was moving from obligation to recommendation in line with the easing of wider societal restrictions.

More on this story here.

25.10 9:39 No more masks in schools

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) has lifted its recommendation on masks in schools for pupils in grade 6 and up as of 25 October.

The risk of contracting coronavirus in daycares, schools and other educational institutions is now small, according to the THL.

Find out more about this story and other news in Monday morning's news round up.

For previous updates, click here.