Thursday's papers: Workplace Covid passport, electricity price spiking, malware warning update

Helsingin Sanomat reports that the government, unions and employers' groups are looking at extending Covid passport requirements into workplaces.

Vaccination status is contained in a QR code on the digital Covid passport. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

Minister for Family and Basic Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) announced earlier this week that preparations for the introduction of Covid passports in workplaces is to begin in cooperation with employers' and employee groups.

Helsingin Sanomat reports (siirryt toiseen palveluun), however, that Raimo Antila, Director General at Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, says that it is not realistic to assume that this step will be taken by the end of this year.

According to Antila the introduction of workplace Covid passports could be modeled on a proposal to amend the Communicable Diseases Act which will mandate vaccinations for public healthcare personnel working with coronavirus patients. Parliament is due to receive this proposal as early as next week.

The largest employees' representative, the Confederation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), has serious doubts as to whether a Covid passport could really be required of all employees and in all workplaces, writes Helsingin Sanonat.

"Requiring coronavirus vaccinations for everyone is an infinitely complex matter when there is a wide variety of types of work, and some is done on site and some remotely. Who in general would assess what are the at-risk sectors?" asked SAK Head of Labour Market Affairs Karoliina Huovila.

According to Huovila, a better option could even be for society and national authorities to mandate universal vaccination, rather than making employers take responsibility.

The union grouping representing highly-educated professionals, Akava, for its part, is in favour of extending the use of the Covid passport to all workplaces on a temporary basis.

"There's an emergency now, and it looks like the coronavirus situation is getting worse. The burden on healthcare must be prevented and occupational safety must be ensured," Akava's Labour Market Director Katarina Murto told the paper.

The white-collar union confederation STTK of white-collar workers, has yet to take a firm position on the issue, but has expressed its willingness to take part in talks. However, STTK Director Minna Ahtiainen pointed to concerns related to fundamental rights and data protection.

On the employers' side, the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK) has long been urging policymakers to negotiate with labour market groups on the legal means to give employers the right to require a Covid passport from employees.

"Employers already have an obligation to take responsibility for the occupational safety of their employees," Ilkka Oksala, Director of EK pointed out.

Testing to be cut back?

The tabloid Iltalehti (siirryt toiseen palveluun) notes that while the government said on Tuesday that the principles of coronavirus testing and tracing need to be updated. No more detailed information is available yet, but this paper believes that with the current surge in infections, more testing is likely to be needed.

However Lasse Lehtonen, Director of Diagnostic Services at Helsinki University Hospital (HUS), told Iltalehti that testing will have to be reduced - and sharply.

"The state withdrew funding from coronavirus testing. There is no funding in the state budget for coronavirus testing next year," Lehtonen noted.

HUS' own coronavirus testing budget this year has been 250 million euros. Lehtonen said that it has budgeted 100 million euros for next year's tests.

"That means halving the number of tests after the turn of the year," pointed out Lehtonen.

Enough power, but higher prices

The Swedish-language daily Hufvudstadsbladet writes (siirryt toiseen palveluun) that if power grid and the the electricity market function normally in Europe, there should be no shortage of electricity in Finland this winter.

The risk of electricity prices remaining high is still likely, though.

On Monday, the price of electricity in Finland and the Nordic countries was the highest in over ten years. At one point, the price was up to over 400 euros per megawatt hour.

Finland is still dependent on electricity imports when consumption is high, for example when it is really cold on a weekday when the electricity needs of industry are high.

"As long as electricity flows to Finland, it works well and right now we need imports. The situation may be different when the third reactor at Olkiluoto is completed," said Fingrid Power Manager Maarit Uusitalo.

According to Fingrid's estimate, peak electricity consumption in Finland during the winter may increase to around 15,100 megawatts. If so, imports will be needed not only from Sweden, but also from Russia and from Estonia.

Updated phone malware warning

Finland's Cyber Security Center has update a warning to the public about the FluBot malware campaign that sends text messages that can infect the devices of Android phone users. The original alert is available in Engish (siirryt toiseen palveluun), the update is in Finnish (siirryt toiseen palveluun).

Ilta-Sanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun) reports that on Wednesday it began receiving a large number of notifications about text messages purporting to be tracking or missing package notices from the DHL shipping company.

FluBot is also a threat on iPhones redirecting users to sites that phish for log-in data.

Capital's shortest bus route

"When I used to drive this route all day, it numbed me," is how Urpo Malin describes sitting behind the wheel on Helsinki's shortest bus route, the number 15 line to the daily Helsingin Uutiset (siirryt toiseen palveluun).

A metro feeder route of only 1.5 kilometres between Ruoholahti and Salmisaari, the run takes only five minutes end to end.

Right now, because of lower traffic volumes attributed to more people telecommuting, the route operates on a reduced schedule from 6AM to 9AM and from 3:30PM to 6PM.

The longest regular bus line within Helsinki is the number 69, wending 24.9 kilometres between Kamppi and Jakomäki, a trip that takes 75 minutes during rush hours.