HUS director calls for late-night alcohol sales ban

A director at Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS) said recent infection clusters stemmed from bars.

Lasse Lehtonen of HUS said he is in favour of curbing late-night alcohol sales. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

Finland should follow Estonia’s example and ban alcohol sales in bars and restaurants between midnight and 10am, according to Lasse Lehtonen, diagnostics chief at Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS).

Estonia’s new curbs on alcohol sales came into effect earlier this week.

"In Finland the majority of coronavirus infection clusters can be traced back to nightlife. Young people have had a lot of infections, and the risk is that they initially infect each other and a moment later those infections spread to their grandparents," Lehtonen told Yle.

He said officials could adapt restrictions to reflect local infection rates.

While the coronavirus situation in Finland is relatively stable, according to Lehtonen, he said decision makers should stay one step ahead of the pandemic.

"If infections levels continue developing at the pace we’re seeing now, we’ll soon be faced with making a decision," he explained.

Lehtonen pointed to the difficulty of distancing and wearing masks in night clubs.

"In Estonia the [coronavirus] situation deteriorated rapidly, and the virus doesn’t behave any differently in Finland. If we don’t act now, we may be facing even stricter restrictions with even more difficult economic consequences."

Officials are set to discuss bar and restaurants restrictions next week, according to Ismo Tuominen, a ministerial counsellor at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

Bars and restaurants reopened in Finland in June after being closed for two months. In an effort to avoid overcrowding, restaurants have had to limit the number of customers to match the seats available while abiding by stricter hygiene and cleanliness standards as compared to before the pandemic.