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Coronavirus updates 18.11-24.11

24.11 20:25 Eckerö Line ordered to maintain Helsinki-Tallinn route

The Finnish Transport and Communications Agency (Traficom) has ordered another ferry company to maintain service between Helsinki and Tallinn, even though there are few passengers these days.

On Tuesday Traficom said it had placed a transport service obligation on Eckerö Line. In effect the state will begin paying the company to keep the unprofitable route between Finland and Estonia open as it is deemed essential for freight deliveries.

Full story here.

24.11 15:15 PM praises new measures in Helsinki region

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) has expressed approval of the latest planned restrictions announced on Tuesday by the three main cities in the capital region, Helsinki, Vantaa and Espoo and the Helsinki-Uusimaa health district (HUS).

"Now is the last chance to act to turn around the quickly worsening corona situation in the capital region. The corona restriction measures announced today in the HUS area are serious and necessary," the premier said on Twitter, adding her thanks to Jan Vapaavuori, Ritva Viljanen and Jukka Mäkelä, the mayors of the three cities, as well as HUS CEO Juha Tuominen.

Specific restrictions are to be formally announced on Thursday.

24.11 14:20 Valmet plans temporary lay-offs

Engineering firm Valmet said on Tuesday that it plans to temporarily furlough around 360 employees because "the global Covid-19 pandemic continues to cause uncertainty in [its] operating environment".

The affected employees work for its Services business line and EMEA area organisation in Finland. The layoffs are expected to last up to 90 days.

Valmet, which has some 5,200 employees in Finland, mainly provides process technologies, automation and services for the pulp, paper and energy industries.

24.11 14:06 353 new infections, more than half in HUS district

The THL said on Tuesday that 353 new coronavirus infections had been confirmed in the past 24 hours. More than half (182) of the new incidences are in the Helsinki and Uusimaa healthcare district (HUS).

There were 31 cases in the Tampere/Pirkanmaa area and 29 in the Lahti/Päijät-Häme district, both in south-central Finland.

The overall total of lab-confirmed cases is now around 22,300.

24.11 12:28 Helsinki area announces new restrictions

Municipal leaders in the Helsinki area have announced plans to switch older children to remote learning, to close public premises and to ban public gatherings. Read our story here.

24.11 10:47 PM praised by BBC for handling of coronavirus crisis

Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin has been named in a list of the 100 most "inspiring and influential" women of 2020 by the BBC, who highlighted the PM's leadership role in the handling of the coronavirus crisis.

There is more on this story here.

24.11 9:24 Papers: Further restrictions for capital region?

Finland's press on Tuesday morning ask whether the Helsinki region should be prepared for further coronavirus restrictions as Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru will meet with Uusimaa municipal leaders later today.

Read more on this story, and the rest of our paper review, here.

23.11 18:47 No Covid found in Finnish mink farm testing

Officials tested mink at some 30 fur farms in Finland, and found no cases of Covid-19. Read our story here.

23.11 17:58 Government shuts down 'night cafes'

Ministers have agreed new rules to close down so-called 'night cafes' that have stayed open through the night during the pandemic, despite Covid restrictions.

The government has been concerned about the spread of coronavirus in the Uusimaa region. Read more here.

23.11 13:40 Nine more deaths, nearly 300 new infections, over half in HUS district

The national health institute THL has announced nine more deaths since Friday, for a total of 384 since March.

It also announced nearly 300 new Covid infections on Monday, bringing the overall tally to nearly 22,000.

Of the new infections, 182 were in the Helsinki-Uusimaa (HUS) health district. The second-largest number (33) was in Pirkanmaa, which includes Tampere, followed by Päijät-Häme, which includes Lahti, with 21 cases.

According to the THL, 120 Covid patients were in hospital, 15 of them in ICUs.

23.11 13:12 35 cases at senior living facility in Helsinki

In Helsinki, 28 residents of a senior assisted-living complex in Lauttasaari have been diagnosed with Covid-19. Seven care workers have also tested positive, the city announced on Monday.

All 107 residents have been tested and placed under quarantine. Their average age is 87.

Seven more cases at senior homes in neighbouring Espoo were also announced on Monday.

Full story is here.

23.11 9:28 Papers explore new capital region restrictions

Our paper round-up on Monday looks at how life in the Helsinki metropolitan area will change as new rules to curb coronavirus come into force.

The strictest rules are in effect in Helsinki, Espoo, Kauniainen and Vantaa through at least mid-December.

Indoor public events over 20 people are banned in nearly all of Uusimaa, as are private events with more than 10 people. Adult indoor contact and team sports are also forbidden in city facilities. Officials recommend that private facilities abide by the same rules. Public pools and libraries are also sharply limiting customer numbers.

High school and vocational students will alternate between remote and contact learning over the next few weeks while those in class will wear face masks, supplied by schools if needed. The cities also want early childhood education staff to cover noses and mouths as its mask recommendation extends to all workplaces in Finland, both in the public and private sector.

Read more here.

22.11 17:20 Demand for antibody tests falls

Fewer people in Finland are seeking coronavirus antibody tests following a surge of interest in the spring. Private clinics in Finland report that around four to five percent of tested samples showed an immune response to the virus.

Read more here.

22.11 13:43 Lehtonen: Covid in capital growing 'exponentially'

Lasse Lehtonen, Director of Diagnostic Services at Helsinki University Hospital, said Helsinki and Vantaa are entering an 'exponential growth' phase of new Covid cases.

Lehtonen told tabloid Ilta-Sanomat that exponential growth entailed new infections roughly doubling every three days, leading cases to balloon in a week or two.

22.11 13:19 Mail standstill affects holiday greetings

The pandemic has disrupted international mail routes, which means Finnish postal service Posti has limited global deliveries to fewer than 20 countries beyond Europe.

Find out more here.

22.11 12:24 Finland records 423 new cases

Finland reported 423 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases on Sunday, bringing the country's overall number of infections to 21,639, according to the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

Most of the infections were seen in the region of Uusimaa, with 281 new cases, Pirkanmaa (26) and Northern Ostrobothnia (23).

21.11 14:24 Finland "among first" for vaccine

Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) on Saturday said Finland would be among the first countries to access a Covid vaccine.

Kiuru, however, told Yle's Ykkösaamu talk show she didn’t believe Finland would be completely rid of the virus by Midsummer, though she said recent vaccine news was promising.

More on this story here.

21.11 13:08 Scientists call for more Covid autopsies

Performing more autopsies on deceased Covid patients in Finland could help scientists learn more about how coronavirus affects the body, according to Finnish pathologists.

Post-mortem exams are only performed on four percent of deceased people in the country annually, and that's problematic for medical research, particularly during an epidemic, according to Helsinki University Hospital pathologist Jonas Kantola.

Read this story here.

21.11 11:50 Finland records 469 new cases

Finland reported 469 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases on Saturday, bringing the country's overall number of infections to 21,216, according to the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

Most of the infections were seen in the region of Uusimaa, with 341 new cases as well as in Pirkanmaa and Northern Ostrobothnia, which recorded 20 and 18 new infections respectively.

20.11. 19:58 PM Marin: Room to tighten Helsinki restrictions

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) has said the latest coronavirus restrictions in the capital region announced on Friday could be made even stricter.

"Maybe there'd be room to tighten [them] further. But one has to trust that the regional authorities have evaluated the situation and made their decisions on that basis," Marin said in an interview with Yle.

Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) told Yle that the government is now addressing restaurant operations in Uusimaa. Read more on this here.

20.11. 14:11 New restrictions for Helsinki region as daily cases hit record high

As of Monday 23 November the maximum permitted number of participants at indoor public events will be limited to 20 people in the Helsinki metropolitan area, Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori announced Friday.

The decision, taken by the Southern Finland Regional State Administrative Agency, will be in force for at least three weeks.

The regional coronavirus coordination group further recommends that no private events for more than 10 people be held. Read more on this here.

20.11. 13:07 Demand for occupational health services spikes

The number of people in Finland seeking help from occupational health services during the coronavirus crisis has hit record highs, with many reporting worries over mental health issues and the fear of losing their jobs.

Read more on this story here.

20.11. 12:18 461 new cases in Finland

THL Chief Physician Taneli Puumalainen told a Friday morning press conference that Finland has registered a record high of 461 new confirmed coronavirus cases.

However, these are not all an increase over Thursday's figure as the total includes a backlog of previously unreported cases from the Pirkanmaa and Central Finland regions. One new death has also been reported.

The largest increase in new cases, 229, was recorded in the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District. Official confirmation by THL is expected during the early afternoon.

20.11 9:13 Friday's papers: Corona crisis hitting families hardest

A number of Friday morning's papers carry a syndicated article by the Uutissuomalainen news service on how the coronavirus crisis is affecting families, particularly those with small children. Many people across Finland are now reliant on food aid operations to survive, according to the report.

Read more on this story, and the rest of our paper review, here.

19.11 18:54 Helsinki area enters community transmission phase

The coronavirus epidemic in the main cities of the Helsinki region has progressed to the community transmission phase, public health officials said early Thursday evening.

The situation has worsened significantly in the four core municipalities of the region – Helsinki, Vantaa, Espoo and Kauniainen, and moved beyond the acceleration phase.

The cities are to announce their own new restrictions on Friday.

Read more here.

19.11 16:40 APN Podcast: Job tips for the Covid era

On this week's episode of the All Points North podcast, Denise and Egan discussed working in life in Finland and heard from a number of different experts on how to find -- and keep -- a job despite the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

You can listen to the podcast here.

19.11 12:55 Finland's Covid case count passes 20,000

Finland announced 351 new Covid cases on Thursday, pushing the total to 20,286. THL says this is a new daily high.

More than half of current infections were traced to contacts within the home, but there has also been an increase in cases acquired at work.

Seven hospital districts (Helsinki University, Kanta-Häme, Länsi-Pohja, Pirkanmaa, Vaasa and Southwest Finland and Åland) are in the so-called 'acceleration phase' of the epidemic, along with the cities of Rauma, Lahti and Kronoby and Kouvola.

Read more from today's Covid briefing here.

19.11 10:56 FT: "Finland’s PM warns populists will prosper if Covid is not controlled"

In an interview with the Financial Times published on Thursday, Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin warns that the public across Europe could blame governments for closing economies, creating a "a breeding ground for populist movements across Europe". She argued that EU countries should make a joint “conscious decision that we want to get the virus under control".

19.11 9:42 Covid spiking among teens

Covid infections are on the rise among young people and some immigrant communities, according to the newspapers on Thursday. Our review also includes a story about cows being fed algae. Read the details here.

18.11 19:47 Northern Finland battles spike in Covid cases this autumn

Northern Finland is battling a spike in Covid cases that has seen more than 1,000 people quarantined this autumn as contract tracers look to stop onward infections. In the Länsi-Pohja hospital district, which comprises the six southwestern municipalities of Lapland, four new cases of the coronavirus were recorded on Wednesday. Read more here.

18.11 15:15 Three new Covid-related deaths in Finland

Finland reported three new deaths linked to Covid-19 on Wednesday, bringing the overall number of fatalities to 375. Ninety people were receiving hospital treatment for the disease, 12 of them in intensive care.

18.11 15:14 Finnish Covid vaccine programme to prioritise risk groups

Finland’s national vaccine expert group is recommending that a coronavirus vaccine should first be administered to healthcare workers tending to Covid-19 patients as well as personnel working in elder care homes and people with severe underlying conditions that put them at special risk if they contract the disease.

18.11 14:24 Finland to maintain strict travel rules

Several sources have confirmed to Yle that current restrictions on travel within the region, which are supposed to be implemented for only six months at a time according to EU rules, will be officially extended on Thursday.

Finland has extended the measures each month since the summer, notifying the EU Commission each time. Finland has the lowest Covid-19 case numbers in Europe, and the travel restrictions are intended to try and help prevent a surge in infections. Read the full story here.

18.11 12:09 Finland sees 288 new cases on Wednesday

Finland reported 288 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases over the past day on Wednesday, bringing the country's overall number of infections to 19,935, according to the Institute for Health and Welfare THL.

Most of the infections were seen in the region of Uusimaa, with 95 cases in Helsinki, 30 in Espoo and 25 in Vantaa, the agency reported.

18.11 12:02 Official: Restrictions likely to tighten in Uusimaa

The coronavirus infection rate in Uusimaa has risen for the past couple of weeks, and the region may see increased restrictions to curtail that trend, according to a senior official in the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

Speaking on the Yle TV1 breakfast show on Wednesday morning, the ministry's Permanent Secretary Kirsi Varhila said the situation in Uusimaa was critical due to its large population of 1.7 million residents and that the epidemic was on the verge of transitioning into the more severe "spreading phase" in the region.

Read more about this story here.

18.11 9:41 Finland's flu vaccine shortage reaches Vaasa

Flu vaccine shortages are now starting to hit Finland. Private clinics had already run out of flu shots at the start of November, but now the shortage is starting to bite on the public side too.

Helsingin Sanomat reports on Wednesday that in Vaasa, public sector flu vaccinations will stop from Monday onwards.

Read more about this and other stories in Wednesday's press review.

Read previous updates here.

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