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How will Finland ease Covid restrictions?

Early February will bring some relief from coronavirus restrictions as the government announced some changes late on Thursday and decisions from regional authorities are expected soon.

Moviegoers queued up at the Bio Rex cinema in Helsinki in October. Low-risk places include libraries, museums, gyms, cinemas and other public events where everyone has their own seat, says the THL. Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva

The cabinet's coronavirus ministerial working group proposed the lifting of some pandemic restrictions late on Thursday evening. The changes apply to restaurants and events where the risk of infection is considered low.

From the beginning of February (next Tuesday), dining restaurants may remain open until 9pm instead of the current 6pm. Alcohol sales must stop no later than 8pm, compared to 5pm now.

In bars and other restaurants that primarily sell alcohol, doors must still close at 6pm.

Restaurants retain the right to require a Covid pass as a condition of admission. On the other hand, the Covid pass will not exempt restaurants from restrictions on alcohol sales and opening hours, at least until mid-February.

Regional officials to decide on sport and cultural restrictions

Some health security measures are decided by regional authorities and municipalities rather than the central government. On Thursday, the Regional State Administrative Agency (Avi) of Southwestern Finland told Yle that such decisions could be made as early as Friday morning.

Based on a proposal from the ministerial working group, regional authorities are expected to decide soon that so-called low-risk events should once again be allowed under certain conditions.

According to the national health institute THL, such low-risk sites include libraries, museums, gyms, cinemas, theatres, concert venues, spectator sports and other public events where everyone has their own seat.

"The coronavirus ministerial working group wants to free up low-risk facilities and opportunities, such as theatres and gyms, in order to increase opportunities for culture and sports in particular. Regional administrative authorities are instructed to assess less restrictive measures, depending on the pandemic situation," said Minister of Social Affairs and Health Hanna Sarkkinen (Left).

The working group of coronavirus ministers will next reconsider restrictions in the second week of February.