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Wednesday's papers: Pandemic ending, school nurse shortage, wolf hunting and a goaltending scandal

Finland's women's ice hockey team are candidates for a medal in Beijing.

Wolf hunting is a contentious issue in Finland. Image: Juha Metso / AOP

Helsingin Sanomat reported (siirryt toiseen palveluun) on Tuesday the opinions of Jussi Sane, a THL employee currently consulting for the World Health Organisation.

He said that the pandemic will continue for as long as people believe in it, but that the burden on healthcare systems — in his opinion the crucial metric — was starting to decline and that we are therefore nearing the end of the Covid pandemic.

On Wednesday, the paper carries (siirryt toiseen palveluun) responses to that idea. It's not quite so simple, according to Mikko Pietilä from the Southwest Finland hospital district. He notes that there have been more fatalities in the last three months than at any previous point in the pandemic, so he isn't calling it the end just yet.

Asko Järvinen from Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district, who said on Tuesday that the Omicron wave may have peaked in the region, said the most effective restrictions were still necessary to ease the burden on healthcare services.

"It may be that we have seen the peak in the south, but it still isn't over," said Järvinen.

THL Director of Health Security Mika Salminen, meanwhile, says that it's misleading to talk about the end of the pandemic, because pandemics don't end, but the 'acute stage' might be nearing a better situation, where there's less risk of overloaded hospitals and serious illness.

School nurse shortage

Turku schools are certainly not calling the end of the pandemic, as local paper Turun Sanomat reports (siirryt toiseen palveluun) on Wednesday that 12 schools in the city were without a school nurse on Monday thanks in large part to sick leave.

There is an acute shortage of nurses in the area across schools and health centres, with many routine appointments delayed or cancelled, reports TS.

Some schools are having to send their own nurses to other schools, so regular checkups can happen and some of the gap can be covered at least momentarily.

Wolf hunt in Kuhmo

Helsingin Sanomat has a story (siirryt toiseen palveluun) on a wolf pack in Kuhmo, eastern Finland, which is to be hunted this year. Permission was granted for all eight wolves in the pack to be shot, but that decision is being challenged.

The pack is in one of the most isolated locations in Finland, with a 25km-wide habitat straddling the border with Russia and only one road that's cleared in winter. That is the road that leads to the border.

HS talks to nature photographer Atte Haataja, who says the wolves have not become bolder around humans — he says he has accidentally scared them off many times in recent years while walking or skiing, and was unable to take photos unless hidden.

Wolves in Finland are protected outside of reindeer herding areas in the north, but permits are still issued to shoot them every year. That is to manage the population and to increase people's willingness to live among wolves, but this particular pack is in as wild a location as it's possible to find in Finland.

Haataja therefore wonders where it's possible for wolves to live in Finland, if not in places like this. The permits were granted, according to the Finnish Wildlife Agency that grants them, because the wolves are not counted among the Finnish population as they live partly in Russia.

Therefore their loss will not appear in statistics for Finland, and so the hunt can proceed without reducing the officially recognised population.

Northern Finland Administrative Court is to rule on the appeal against the hunting permits.

Olympian goalie fight

Ilta-Sanomat has the latest on the row over goaltending spots in the Finnish women's ice hockey team ahead of the Beijing Olympics. Noora Räty, a four-time Olympian with two bronze medals to her name, is staying home after she was left out of the squad.

That decision raised eyebrows, to say the least, but coach Pasi Mustonen had an explanation when he announced it last week. Chemistry between the three goaltenders was important, and taking the best three players is not always the best way to do things.

Following the backlash, though, he offered Räty a spot as 'first choice backup' goaltender. Räty would not be part of the squad, but if anything happened to number one Anni Keisala, she would join the team and take up her spot on the ice.

An IS opinion piece (siirryt toiseen palveluun) pointed out the problems with that. Firstly, it's a big vote of no confidence in the number two goaltender, Meeri Räisänen. Secondly, the Chinese authorities have authorised only four flights from Finland to the Olympic bubble.

The last one is on 9 February, before the quarter-finals and semi-finals are played, leaving Finland with a second-best option if Keisala was injured after that flight leaves Helsinki.

Mustonen complained that Räty did not respond to the offer, but IS is sceptical about the offer itself. The paper suggests that if relations between Räty and Mustonen have deteriorated so far he had to drop her, he should have simply said so and taken the flack.

As things stand he has undermined the other goaltenders, fuelled the media row and ensured that Finland have more to lose than to gain from the Olympic tournament. That's not a happy place for any Finnish team.

As for Räty, IS reports (siirryt toiseen palveluun) that she published a picture on Instagram (siirryt toiseen palveluun) yesterday looking carefree and happy, along with the text: 'Feeling FREE!

"I won’t give up because of one bad chapter in my life. I will keep going… my story doesn’t end here!"'