Monday's papers: Emergency Act talks, travel precautions, heatwave continues

Most morning papers reported on the expected lifting of the government's Emergency Powers Act.

Hot weather continues, but there is also a warning of high levels of UV radiation in most of the country.. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

The Emergency Powers Act invoked to deal with the novel coronavirus epidemic in Finland will remain in force until the end of June, but the statute could be lifted before then, Prime Minister Sanna Marin told Yle on Sunday.

The cabinet is meeting on Monday to review the need for emergency measures that are in force until the end of this month.

The Turku daily Turun Sanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun) is among the morning papers that look at what lifting measures imposed under the Act may mean.

The paper points out that there are no regulations specifically on how a state of emergency, once declared, can be ended. It notes that last week, the chair of parliament's Constitutional Law Committee, Johanna Ojala-Niemelä, said it would be good if the government were to declare an end to the state of emergency. Some legal experts consider that the state of emergency will automatically end once the government relinquishes the special powers it has assumed under the Emergency Powers Act.

Chancellor of Justice Tuomas Pöysti has said he is in favour of the government moving towards dealing with the coronavirus epidemic through the normal legislative process. This means a return to parliament passing laws, rather than the government issuing executive orders.

It is recognised however, writes Turun Sanomat, that there is a danger of a new wave of infections. For this reason the government says it will seek to revise normal legislation to prepare to deal with further outbreaks.

Among the revisions expected are changes to the laws governing medical supplies and education. When the government moved to close restaurants, it was surprised to find that it was not empowered to do so under the terms of public health legislation. This will be changed, as well.

Government talks on Monday are also expected to deal with extending limits on public gatherings up until August, and the extension of restrictions on visitation at healthcare facilities.

Sensible travellers

Travel from Finland to many nearby countries has now been eased, after the government decided to lift restrictions on travel to and from the Baltic States, Norway, Iceland, and Denmark. Additionally, travel from any country within the Schengen area is permitted for family reasons, by persons who are in a dating relationship with a Finnish citizen or a resident of Finland, as well as persons who own a dwelling, a holiday home, or real estate in Finland.

The Helsinki daily Helsingin Sanomat writes (siirryt toiseen palveluun) that the re-start of more normal travel is likely to create crowds at harbours and airports, and that this creates conditions that could spread the coronavirus.

The paper reports that while ferry operators and airlines have new rules in place to help prevent infection, in the main they are relying on travellers having good sense.

"I believe that everyone can fly without worry," Finnair communications chief Päivyt Tallqvist told Helsingin Sanomat. What is most important is to practice good hygiene and have enough masks. Masks should be changed every time one eats or drinks."

Operators urge distancing at terminals, distributing guidelines from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, making regular safe-practices announcements and providing hand disinfectant.

Eeva Hietanen, the chief of communications for the Port of Helsinki says that crowds are expected in ship terminals now that traffic is being resumed. "Terminals are not dangerous places, but there can be dangers if people line up too closely," she says.

According to Hietanen, there is sufficient waiting room inside terminals, but if the weather is good, passengers can wait outside if they want to be especially cautious.

On board ships, the possible "hot zones" for infection are restaurant buffets, bars and night clubs. Tallink-Silja Line, for example, is limiting the number of people allowed in these areas at any one time.

Money back

The economic and business daily Kauppalehti reports (siirryt toiseen palveluun) that large numbers of European travellers who had flights cancelled this past spring because of the coronavirus epidemic are still waiting for compensation.

It writes that in Finland, Finnair and Norwegian have followed the law by offering compensation in cash, even though officials say that there have been delays in processing claims.

"The queue for compensation is backed up. This is the situation not only for flights, but for the whole of the travel ecosystem," Satu Toepfer of Finland's Competition and Consumer Authority told Kauppalehti.

Under normal conditions, the law requires airlines to provide compensation for cancelled flights within seven days.

"It is understandable up to a certain point that it has been difficult to comply with the legally-mandated limit, but stretching it out for months is not at all ok," said Toepfer.

Some airlines have and are still trying to provide compensation in the form of vouchers. Satu Toepfer pointed out that travellers whose flights were cancelled do not have to agree to accepting vouchers. Consumers have the right, if they wish, to be paid in cash.

During March-April, Finnair cancelled around 95 percent of its flights. According to Finnair communications chief Päivyt Tallqvist so far the airline has paid back passengers over 200 million euros.

Weather: more of the same

Most morning newspapers, including Kuopio's Savon Sanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun) noted that a new record high temperature for this summer, 28.8C was set at Ylitornio in Finnish Lapland on Sunday. The paper noted that it is likely that temperatures over 30C will be seen in the country in coming days.

According to the tabloid Iltalehti (siirryt toiseen palveluun), most of the nation will have sunny hot weather to start the week, with the exception of the far north which can expect cloudy skies and temperatures mostly in the 20's, but as low as 15C during the day, along with rain and possible thundershowers.

Nearly the whole of the country is under forest fire warnings and there is a warning of high levels of UV radiation everywhere except in the far north.