Restaurant restrictions extended until mid-November in parts of Finland

The government says restrictions must be kept in place since vaccination coverage is still short of the target level.

Nightclubs in the areas with higher infection rates have been able to keep their doors open requiring customers to show valid Covid passports. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

The government has decided to continue the current restaurant restrictions until at least mid-November.

Restaurant restrictions will continue in the areas with the highest infection rates, i.e. those in the community transmission phase, from 31 October.

The restrictions apply to the provinces of Southwest Finland, Satakunta, Päijät-Häme, Ostrobothnia, Southern Ostrobothnia, Central Ostrobothnia and Uusimaa. This includes most of the largest cities such as Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Tampere, Turku and Pori.

In these areas, alcohol may be served until midnight and restaurants can be open until 1am. Nightclubs, bars and pubs may use up to half of their normal maximum capacity both indoors and outdoors. Food-oriented restaurants and cafés may seat up to 75 percent of the normal maximum. All guests must have their own seating indoors.

Restaurants in higher-infection areas can avoid restrictions on opening and serving times as well as customer numbers by requiring patrons to show Covid passports, which certifies full vaccination or a recent negative test or recovery from the illness.

Unvaccinated burdening healthcare

The regulation allowing restaurant restrictions was due to expire at the end of October.

The government said that the extension of restrictions is justified by the fact that vaccination coverage is not yet at the desired level. Unvaccinated people with Covid are also placing a heavy burden on specialist medical care.

The infection and hospitalisation rate among unvaccinated people is many times higher than the rest of the population. Earlier on Thursday the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) said that those in their 50s and 60s are more than 50 times more likely to end up in hospital than their fully vaccinated counterparts.

Health ministry aims to expand use of Covid passport

The government has previously pledged to waive coronavirus restrictions when 80 percent vaccination coverage among those aged 12 and over is reached.

THL estimates that this level will be achieved next week, in early November. As of Thursday the rate was nearly 78 percent.

THL has also recommended extending restaurant restrictions. Restaurant restrictions are also tied to the Covid passport and its validity, as the passport is an alternative to complying with the restrictions. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health plans to expand and continue the use of the Covid passport after the turn of the year.