Wednesday's papers: Curbing Covid, vaccination bus and Finland's smallest police dog retires

Finland's government rolls out new restrictions aimed at tackling the worsening Covid situation, as final preparations are made to begin vaccinating children aged 5-11.

Changes to Finland's border security measures are expected to be announced later this week as authorities move to prevent the Omicron variant entering the country. Image: Emmi Korhonen / Lehtikuva

All of Finland's national and regional papers carry reports on Wednesday morning from the government's meeting at the House of the Estates on Tuesday where strategies aimed at tackling the worsening coronavirus situation in the country were discussed.

Helsingin Sanomat writes (siirryt toiseen palveluun) that new restrictions and additional measures will be introduced to areas considered to be in the community spread phase of the epidemic, as well as a nationwide recommendation that people work remotely if it is possible to do so.

"We are in a race against the Delta virus. It is spreading faster even as vaccine coverage is rising," HS reports Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) as saying after the meeting, with the paper adding that the situation has been further exacerbated by the emergence of the new Omicron variant. It has not yet been confirmed in Finland, but some suspected cases are being tested.

The exact nature of the new restrictions will depend on decisions made by regional authorities, known as Regional State Administrative Agencies or Avi's, but in Kiuru's opinion the next 2-3 weeks will be decisive in how Finland manages the epidemic.

The minister also said that the government will provide further information about restrictions on Thursday, especially in relation to how authorities may increase security measures at Finland's border to prevent the Omicron variant entering the country.

In a separate article (siirryt toiseen palveluun), HS reports that Finland is putting the final preparations to plans to roll out Covid vaccines to children aged between 5 and 11, and that the process may begin as early as Christmas week.

Covid infections among the 5-11-year-old age group have been steadily increasing since mid-October, HS writes, up from about 4,000 cases per week then to about 7,000 weekly infections now.

"We’ve noticed in the past that as the infection rate rises sharply among adults, it rises among children as well,” Emmi Sarvikivi, a chief physician with public health authority THL, told HS.

The National Advisory Committee on Vaccines (Krar) is expected to discuss the issue of vaccinations for children aged 5-11 on Wednesday, but it may still be a few days before a final decision is made by other authorities.

All aboard the vaccination bus

Tampere-based Aamulehti reports (siirryt toiseen palveluun) on an innovative solution introduced by the city's health authorities to further increase vaccination coverage: the vaccination bus.

AL hopped aboard the bus when it pulled up near the city's Central Market Square on Tuesday evening, and soon found a lengthy queue of willing vaccinees had formed across the square.

"When we first came to the Market Square, we did wonder if anyone would come here, but this has been a success," nurse Jaana Ihalainen told Aamulehti, adding that most people who showed up were there for their second dose.

"And increasingly the first, which is a really good thing," she said.

The vaccination bus parks at different locations around the city and stays for about 2-3 hours at a time, AL reports, and between 130 and 140 people receive a jab each time. Prior to the wider introduction of the Covid pass, that figure was around 60–80 vaccine doses per day.

"We are trying to find ways to make it easy for people in Tampere to get vaccinated," Ihalainen said.

Small dog, big career

Tabloid Iltalehti reports (siirryt toiseen palveluun) that Finland's smallest police dog, Jekku, retired on Tuesday at the sprightly old age of 10 and a half years.

The Parson Russell Terrier's long and storied career with the Häme Police Department included helping to recover an estimated one million euros in cash as well as discovering more than 100 kilograms of drugs and almost 70 weapons during the course of over 2,000 searches.

Jekku was also chosen as the police dog of the year 2018, IL writes, as well as a host of other honours.

Jekku's work will be continued by his protégé, Patrik, whose training and work can be followed via the Instagram account @poliisikoirapatrik_k9, the Häme Police Department revealed in a Facebook post.