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THL recommends restaurants stay open until midnight

The institute has proposed easing restrictions in low-risk environments such as outdoor dining establishments.

THL classifies cafeterias as well as indoor and outdoor restaurants as low-risk environments. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) has recommended easing coronavirus restrictions for restaurants which fall under the low-risk environment category as per its assessment.

These include cafeterias and staff restaurants, as well as indoor and outdoor dining establishments. Outdoor bars and pubs are classified as moderate-risk environments, while high-risk environments include regular bars and pubs as well as karaoke bars and nightclubs.

According to THL, given the current Covid-19 situation, opening hours could be extended to 9pm in areas where the hospital burden is rising. Furthermore, bars and restaurants can stay open until as late as 12 midnight in areas where the coronavirus situation is stable or the infection rate is declining.

Ministers have unanimously called for restrictions to be loosened in Finland. The government is expected to reveal its updated coronavirus strategy next week at the latest.

According to THL, restrictions on bars should not be lifted yet as the Covid-19 infection rate and burden on hospitals remain high in most parts of the country.

However, the institute noted that measures could be rolled back gradually in areas where the healthcare burden is estimated to have decreased.

Restaurants are currently required to stop serving alcohol after 5pm, and can stay open till 6pm. Bars are allowed to remain open at half capacity, while eateries, including those that do not serve alcohol such as cafés, are limited to 75 percent of their total customer capacity.

Regulations on opening hours will remain in force till the end of the month.

Issues with Covid pass

THL has warned that reintroducing the Covid pass presents challenges, particularly in high-risk environments.

"Being fully vaccinated does not completely prevent a person from getting infected with the virus, so allowing the use of the Covid pass in high-risk environments would be impractical at this point, as it would enable a significant amount of interaction and contact between people," the institute said in a statement.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Tuesday that the government should speed up the process of reintroducing low-risk sports and cultural events with the use of a Covid pass.

THL has recommended making certain changes to the Covid pass, including granting the document only on the basis of vaccination. This means that it would no longer be possible to acquire the pass with a negative Covid-19 test result.

The institute has also suggested the pass be updated to mandate at least three doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. However, this requirement would be phased in gradually, depending on the holder's age group.