THL recommends 3-week shutdown of bars and pubs in Covid fight

A ministerial coronavirus working group is scheduled to meet on Thursday to discuss the matter.

All of the country's regions are at the highest phase of the epidemic, which means all of those areas would be affected by such closure orders. Image: Petteri Sopanen / Yle

The Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) has proposed that the country's pubs, bars and nightclubs be completely shut down across the country in an aim to curb the spread of coronavirus.

At the request of the social affairs and health ministry for an opinion, the THL suggested that bars, pubs, karaoke bars and nightclubs operating in areas classified as being in the third and most serious phase of the epidemic should be ordered to close for a three-week period, or perhaps longer if needed.

All of the country's regions are currrently considered to be in the 'community transmission' phase of the epidemic, which means all areas would be affected by such closure orders. However, the THL suggested that a gradual closure of bars could also be justified, based on regional differences in infection rates as well as the varying amounts of burden carried by local social and health care providers.

A ministerial coronavirus working group is scheduled to meet on Thursday to discuss the matter.

The health authority said it would be important to shut down the establishments as soon as possible, but such a move would require special legislation that could take MPs several weeks to process in Parliament.

The government is also considering the possibility of closing down establishments.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) told Yle that an across-the-board temporary shutdown of bars and restaurants may be needed, due to the worsening epidemic situation.

Marin did not comment on whether the government is considering invoking sections of the Emergency Powers Act, as also occurred in the spring 2021, but conceded that the possibility exists

On Friday, the government ordered restaurants to stop serving alcohol at 5pm and close for the day at 6pm. Previous extended opening hours of the food restaurants were removed.

The temporary rules went into effect on Wednesday.

Newspaper Ilta-Sanomat first reported HL's recommendation on Wednesday.