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Friday's papers: Restriction rollbacks, presidential quarantine, messy weekend ahead

Government ministers have extended restaurant opening hours and recommended a lifting of restrictions on low-risk cultural and sporting events and facilities.

Minister of Social Affairs and Health Hanna Sarkkinen (Left) announced an easing of restaurant opening hours. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

The government announced an easing of restaurant opening hours late on Thursday evening. The tabloid Ilta-Sanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun)'s headline refers to "extra time for dining restaurants" but "no mercy for pubs".

Minister of Social Affairs and Health Hanna Sarkkinen (Left) said that as of the beginning of February, food-emphasised restaurants may stay open for three hours longer. They may serve alcoholic beverages until 8pm and keep their doors open until 9pm.

Restrictions on bars and pubs remain unchanged, though. Alcohol sales must end by 5pm and premises must be emptied by 6pm.

"Restaurant restrictions cannot be circumvented with the Covid pass until at least 15 February," Sarkkinen said.

The ministers in charge of pandemic policies took a tougher stance on restaurant restrictions than the health institute THL. On Thursday it gave the green light to letting restaurants and bars stay open until midnight in areas where hospitals are not strained by Covid patients.

Sarkkinen also said that ministers recommend that restrictions be gradually lifted on low-risk cultural and sporting events and facilities, including theatres and gyms.

"Culture and exercise have significant effects on people's overall well-being," she said. However final decisions on such restrictions are up to the Regional State Administrative Agencies (Avi).

MT: Niinistö in quarantine, farms in trouble

The national rural newspaper Maaseudun Tulevaisuus reports that President Sauli Niinistö is self-isolating after an exposure to Covid.

On Wednesday the president met with Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt, who was subsequently diagnosed with a coronavirus infection. She visited Niinistö at his official residence, Mäntyniemi, in Helsinki's Meilahti district.

In October, Niinistö tested negative after being exposed to the coronavirus during a meeting with his Latvian counterpart Egils Levits.

Moving from town to country, MT, which is affiliated with the farmers' union MTK, says that a quarter of livestock farms are in serious trouble (siirryt toiseen palveluun) due to spiking costs.

It quotes MTK Agricultural Director Johan Åberg, who estimates that about 2,000 farms are facing serious liquidity problems, with their future production hanging in the balance.

Most of these are livestock farms, representing about a quarter of the country's 8,000 full-time cattle, pork, poultry and sheep farms. Altogether there are more than 40,000 farms in Finland.

The market situation has hit pork farms the hardest, says the MTK. European pork exports to China have declined and domestic consumption is declining. At the same time, costs have risen sharply, it notes.

AL: Strained maternity ward

Returning to Covid, the largest provincial daily, Aamulehti (siirryt toiseen palveluun) of Tampere, looks at the pandemic's impact on pregnant women at Tampere University Hospital (Tays).

The Omicron variant surge is severely straining the maternity ward, with several infected mothers being kept in isolation and many nurses staying home due to infections or exposures.

AL reports that during the pandemic, doctors have had to carry out caesarean sections to save the lives of mothers with severe Covid infections, while one pregnancy had to be terminated for the same reason.

Meanwhile nurse Maritta Ängeslevä explains that the traditional follow-up home visits to families of newborns have often had to be curtailed due to infections in the families. In such cases, the family is contacted by phone. If a whole family falls ill and needs help, though, Ängeslevä says they have a team that can make a home visit even in that situation.

Snow is coming

On a lighter note, Aamulehti also features an article on Tampere's 15 safe, city-maintained sledding hills, along with 133 skating rinks.

The paper runs pictures of six-year-old Ilkay Bulan, who is visiting from Turkey, sledding with his grandfather in Vihiojanpuisto park in the Nekala neighbourhood. He'll certainly get a taste of serious Nordic winter this weekend.

The Finnish Meteorological Institute warns of a major snowstorm sweeping across Finland on Saturday, bringing poor driving conditions (siirryt toiseen palveluun) to nearly the entire country throughout the weekend.