Finland restricts restaurants to slow Covid spread

Broader use of Covid passes could help restaurants avoid the tightened restrictions. 

Bars will need to require a Covid pass at all times if they want to avoid restrictions. Image: Matias Väänänen / Yle

The government has rubber-stamped new restrictions on bars and restaurants in the regions of the country worst-hit by the Covid pandemic.

Establishments in regions classified as in the 'community transmission' phase of the epidemic will have to end alcohol sales at 5pm and close their doors at 6pm, unless they demand a Covid pass at all times.

Covid passes are available to those who have been double-vaccinated or have recovered from Covid, or those who can show a recent negative test.

Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) said on Thursday that the number of Covid cases in intensive care units was rapidly approaching the level where surgery and other care would have to be severely limited.

On Friday the health agency THL reported 44 patients in ICU units, down from 49 on Thursday evening. Health officials have said that 50-60 ICU beds are earmarked for Covid patients, but some health districts are already postponing operations requiring ICU stays due to a shortage of beds.

The new rules come into force on Sunday, and affect most of the country with the exception of North Karelia, Savo, Central Finland, Kainuu and Lapland.