The hospitality industry has voiced sharp criticism of the tightening and continuation of restrictions on the operations of bars and restaurants in some parts of the country.
A week ago, the government lifted restrictions on opening hours alcohol sales and customer numbers for bars and restaurants areas in classed as being in the acceleration phase of the coronavirus pandemic. Päijät-Häme was still in the acceleration phase last week, but now it has been reclassified as being in the community transmission phase.
As of Friday, 8 October, restaurants in the area will have to stop alcohol sales and close their doors earlier again, as well as limit the number of customers on their premises. Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa have also been classified as being in the community transmission phase, according to changes announced on Thursday.
The industry's interest group, the Finnish Hospitality Association MaRa, argues that the authorities are treating hospitality businesses in an unequal manner in relation to many other sectors of the economy. According to Timo Lappi, CEO of MaRa, it is not in the spirit of the government's hybrid strategy for bar and restaurant restrictions to be tightened while other parts of society are being opened up.
According to the association, the renewed restrictions in Päijät-Häme and their continuation in the Greater Helsinki area cannot be justified by data on the spread of the coronavirus.
"[Thursday] THL announced at its briefing that only 1.8 percent of the infections in Helsinki are definitely from restaurants. If suspected infections are taken into account, the figure is only 5.4 percent. In our view, such low infection rates do not in any way justify spreading phase restrictions in the municipalities of the Helsinki metropolitan area at the moment," says Lappi.
Complaint to the Justice Chancellor
The public healthcare organisation for Päijät-Häme region said last Monday that the need for hospital care in the region is again approaching the peak of the epidemic period, and that the coronavirus situation has deteriorated significantly. Health officials there believe that a large number of infections involve visits to restaurants.
As in the whole country, the vaccination take-up rate has slowed in the region. According to the government, the opening hours of restaurants and the number of customer permitted are to be lifted when there is sufficient vaccine coverage. From the point of view of the hospitality industry, business owners are now indirectly shouldering the responsibility for the carrying capacity of hospitals and the actions of non-vaccinated individuals.
"The vaccination system is slow and some people are not taking the vaccine, even if there is no medical reason not to. It is completely unreasonable that the price for this is currently being paid by restaurant owners, employees and their families," says Timo Lappi.
The Hospitality Association is filing a complaint with the Chancellor of Justice over restrictions in Päijät-Häme and the Helsinki region. The association has several similar complaints already on file on behalf of members in other parts of the country.