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Finland to consider extending schools' Christmas holiday

The government is convening on Tuesday to decide if Finland needs tighter curbs to rein in the spread of Omicron.

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin spoke to the press on Sunday during Yle Radio Suomi's "prime minister question hour" programme. Image: Stephanie LeCocq/EPA-EFE/All Over Press

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) on Sunday said the government must decide whether to extend the upcoming school Christmas holidays due to the worsening Covid situation.

The government is set to convene on Tuesday to decide if Finland should pull its so-called Covid emergency brake, effectively reintroducing various epidemic-related restrictions.

Speaking to the press on Sunday, Marin said she was not taking any measures to mitigate the virus off the table, but emphasised that any new restrictions would require a better understanding of their broader impacts on society. The premier noted that Finland's public health institute THL has yet to put forward any official recommendation regarding more stringent measures to combat the virus.

"No clash"

Reintroducing pandemic restrictions would essentially stop efforts to open up. The premier denied recent speculation of rifts within her cabinet regarding the handling of Covid.

This past autumn Marin has been seen as wanting to return to pre-pandemic life. She recently apologised to the nation for going out clubbing while exposed to the virus. Fellow SDP minister, Krista Kiuru, has meanwhile been viewed as taking a tough line on Covid, recently telling the media it was time to "pull the brake," which would entail the government taking a stronger role in dealing with the pandemic.

Marin denied any conflict within her cabinet.

"There's no conflict within the cabinet on this issue. We share the same picture. We all understand the gravity of the situation. The government must weigh how necessary any new measures are and what their implications are on society. There's no easy way out of this," she said.

THL's Director General, Markku Tervahauta, on Saturday floated the idea of temporarily shelving Covid passes. This would mean restrictions on bars and restaurants would once again affect everyone and could not be circumvented with a Covid pass.

On the issue of easing hospitals' workloads, Marin said staff could receive special bonuses.

"I call on all hospital districts to pay bonuses to workers," she told the press.

The premier also emphasised the importance of speeding up the Covid vaccine roll-out, particularly in regard to third doses.

"It seems like municipalities have different levels of preparedness when it comes to vaccinations. The central government will pay whatever it costs," she said.