Friday's papers: Abandoned security guards, digital age divide, Tampere adjusting to trams

Jyväskylä's Keskisuomalainen reports on former local guards at the Finnish embassy still hoping to be evacuated from Afghanistan.

Tampere's shiny new trams have been involved in a spate of accidents, reports the daily Aamulehti. Image: Miikka Varila / Yle

In August, Finland evacuated employees of a company that had provided security services as a subcontractor to the Finnish Embassy in Afghanistan, along with their families.

The paper spoke by phone with one Afghan man who worked at the embassy for six years, and he told KSML that he does not understand why Finland offered protection to only some of the employees.

According to the man, whose identity has been withheld for his own safety, the company's employees were promised protection by the embassy.

Keskisuomalainen says it has seen the man's employment records and his Finnish embassy pass, although his documents do not specify his duties.

According to the interviewee, there are currently nearly forty people who worked for the security company in hiding in Afghanistan. He added that he had recently lost contact with former colleagues and has no information about the whereabouts of his former co-workers or whether they are even alive.

Due to Taliban threats, the man and his family have fled to Pakistan.

Under the decision made by the Finnish government in August, only the employees of the company involved in personal bodyguard duties were evacuated.

According to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, this group does not include persons who worked as guards in the mission area, for example guarding buildings, and did not provide personal security for diplomats inside or outside the mission area.

Veikko Kiljunen, Director for the Unit for South Asia at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, told the paper that the evacuation of security workers who were left behind, and some other individuals, has been discussed but no new decision on evacuation is being prepared.

Vaccination variation

As Finland approaches the target of a coronavirus vaccination rate of 80 percent of over-12 year-olds, tabloid Ilta-Sanomat looks at a study showing large variation in rates according to profession.

The report by the Helsinki Graduate School of Economics (GSE) compared vaccine coverage between employees in different industries.

It found, for example, about a quarter of those working in the construction sector have not been vaccinated, while only seven percent of those working in the financial and insurance sectors have not yet had a jab.

Vaccine coverage in the health and social care sector has been a topic of debate in recent weeks. According to this report, just over 10 percent of employees in these jobs are unvaccinated.

"The results were interesting and worrying in the sense that there were so many industry-specific differences," Mika Kortelainen, Professor of Health Economics at the University of Turku, told Ilta-Sanomat.

It was already known that vaccination rates in the immigrant community are not as high as among the general population. This, IS notes, has in part been attributed to a younger age structure than the rest of the population, a lack of adequate language skills or a low level of trust in the authorities.

The paper points out that a large proportion of foreign workers in the construction industry come from the Baltic countries, where the coronavirus situation is currently poor.

Digital divide

Helsingin Sanomat carries an article examining the problems older people are facing as services increasingly move into the digital domain.

The piece features Hilkka Syväniemi, a retired piano teacher from Hämeenlinna, who says she is already agonising over the challenge she will face buying a bus ticket to Helsinki to attend a Christmas concert.

Syväniemi has a computer on which she uses e-mail, does her online banking and accesses her medical records. In addition, she reads the news on it it and transfers photos from a digital camera to the computer, using detailed instructions written down by her brother.

When she has a problem, she turns to her sister's son-in-law for help. Syväniemi also has a smartphone, but hasn't learned to use it properly, and the tiny screen is hard to read.

Sakari Taipale, Assistant Professor from the Centre of Excellence for Ageing and Nursing Research at the University of Jyväskylä, told HS that the range of digital skills of elderly people is very wide, but because older age groups are so big, the digital difficulties described by Hilkka Syväniemi affect a large number of people in Finland.

While the goal of society is to keep older people in independent life and able to function for as long as possible, increased digitisation sometimes has the opposite effect.

Taipale says that more systematically funded and organised digital coaching for the elderly is needed. At present, teaching and support is fragmented.

"They should have places where they are comfortable and where they could embrace the technologies and skills from their own starting points so that they can keep up," Taipale said.

If the elderly can't or won't embrace digital skills, Taipale added, essential services will have to provide alternatives.

Not quite used to trams

The city of Tampere saw the opening of its first two tram lines in early August, and both motorists and pedestrians are seemingly still trying to adjust.

The daily Aamulehti reports that so far, while serious personal injuries have been avoided, trams have been involved in five major accidents, including a collision between a tram and a van on August 30 that is expected to have cost a five-figure sum once it's all totalled up.

Altogether there have been 27 accidents involving trams and 35 close calls with pedestrians.

Aamulehti reports that trams operators on Thursday were concerned about indifference, and a lack of respect for traffic regulation in the city.

A major worry is what the paper called the "cardinal sin" of Tampere residents – ignoring red lights.