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Monday's papers: PM riles businessmen, restaurant restrictions and Northern Lights sightings

Business leaders react sharply to PM's statement on corporate social responsibility.

Skywatchers have the opportunity to spot the northern lights early this week. Image: Antti Pietikäinen / Yle

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) has become a global celebrity in the months since she took over the top job in the Finnish government, and her leftish views and direct communication style continue to make waves in Finland too.

This week the media commentary machine rumbled into action over her comments on corporate social responsibility in a Talouselämä interview (siirryt toiseen palveluun)on Friday. She managed to ruffle some feathers in the business community.

The PM had raised the question of Finnish firms' corporate social responsibility in the wake of UPM shutting down the Kaipola paper mill last month.

"It seems to me that there is a need for a strong welfare state and the public sector in the future as well. Unfortunately, we cannot trust companies to take care of people and the environment," Marin said in the interview. She also took to Twitter to elaborate on her statement.

Tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reported that her comments quickly sparked sharp protests (siirryt toiseen palveluun) from entrepreneurs.

Mikko Isotalo, CEO of Lujabetoni, criticised the PM for painting companies as “villains who pollute the environment and lay off people.”

Jaakko Hirvola, CEO of the Technology Industries of Finland industrial lobby group, meanwhile reminded Marin on Twitter that the export industry will generate 28 billion in tax revenue and 90 billion in GDP added-value to finance the Nordic welfare state.

On the other hand, veteran SDP politician Erkki Tuomioja took to Facebook to defend the premier. He stood behind PM Marin’s comments and said companies who pay taxes are not performing an act of charity but are merely complying with a legal obligation.

Vesa Kanniainen, professor of economics at University of Helsinki, disagreed. He criticised Marin (siirryt toiseen palveluun) for her "populist" idea that a company should continue an activity that might not be profitable. He said no prime minister or politicians should tell companies how to operate.

On Sunday Centre Party leader Annika Saarikko joined the fray (siirryt toiseen palveluun) -- she took to Facebook to say that entrepreneurs, employees and the state are not opponents, but must all be on the same side of the table.

Saarikko sympathised with businesses that are struggling to cope with the effects of the pandemic and said that the average entrepreneur takes care of their staff and considers redundancies as a last resort.

Helsinki in 'spreading phase'

Helsinki and Uusimaa district's coronavirus situation is moving from an accelerating stage to a spreading phase, the director of diagnostic services at Helsinki University Hospital, Lasse Lehtonen,told daily Helsingin Sanomat on Sunday.

"We are already on a worrying path. In terms of tracking, the situation is bad. Less than 20 percent of the exposures can now be traced," Lehtonen said.

According to Lehtonen, there are so many mass exposures that the situation is impossible to monitor. "We have been in the acceleration phase. This week we already entering the spreading phase."

'Traffic light model’ for restaurants

Meanwhile, Finland has not yet reached an agreement on how restaurants should be restricted with the worsening coronavirus situation.

According to Helsingin Sanomat, an idea is being put forth similar to the ‘traffic light model’ used for border traffic where decisions are based on the latest coronavirus figures in different countries.

In the case of restaurants this would mean, that for example, once or twice a week, the health authorities would report on the infection rates in various hospital districts. Restaurant and bar restrictions would be tightened if the area had moved from an acceleration phase to a spreading phase and would be relaxed if the spread has been curbed.

The aim is to make a decision that has the greatest possible impact and minimises the financial losses to restaurants.

The cabinet is expected to make a decision during government negotiations on Tuesday.

Watch out for Northern Lights

Direct your gaze to the skies for the next few nights, you may just spot the Northern Lights.

Heikki Sinisalo from the Finnish Meteorological Institute told tabloid Iltalehti (siirryt toiseen palveluun) that an increase in solar activity brings the promise of a brilliant display, which may be visible in central and Southern Finland if the skies are clear over the coming nights.

Aurora Borealis enthusiasts from across the country have been sharing photographs of their sightings from Sunday night.

Northern lights are formed when charged particles from the sun hit the Earth's atmosphere. You can check out the probability of spotting the northern lights nationwide on the website of the meteorological society (siirryt toiseen palveluun)(in Finnish).