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Coronavirus updates 25.11-30.11

30.11 17:52 Coronavirus vaccines may be available in Finland before Christmas

Contrary to previous estimates, coronavirus vaccinations may start in Europe as early as December. Finland is also preparing for this possibility, officials from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) told Yle.

According to preliminary estimates, the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine could be approved for use in early December and they could start supplying vaccines immediately after. You can read more about the story here.

30.11 13:12 Finland records six new deaths

Public health institute THL on Monday reported six new deaths related to coronavirus-related complications, bringing the total number of deaths from the virus to 399.

Hospitals are currently caring for 175 Covid patients, 18 of whom are in intensive care.

30.11 12:33 Northwestern Finland’s MD cautions against travel through region

Speaking about the coronavirus pandemic, Jyri J. Taskila, medical director of the Länsi-Pohja region in the northwest of Finland warned that, “The situation will not calm down if people from the south continue to travel through our area.”

The Länsi-Pohja region’s pandemic working group has requested that people in Finland avoid non-essential travel through the region.

“If people in other parts of country do not change their behavior as most people in the Länsi Pohja have largely done, we will soon be facing a situation that borders upon implementation of Emergency Powers Act,” said Taskila.

The coronavirus situation in the Norrbotten and Oulu regions is getting worse. For example, the Pohjois-Pohjanmaa region has already moved to the epidemic's spreading phase, while the Länsi-Pohja healthcare area is already in the accelerated phase of the epidemic.

30.11 12:31 HUS: "It's time we consider compulsory masks on public transport"

Helsinki University Hospital District (HUS) says officials may need to make masks mandatory on board public transit.

"Current recommendations don’t guarantee 100 percent mask use. Nearly everyone would need to wear a mask for us to reach the maximum benefit. We need to consider whether we can demand that people wear masks to board public transport," HUS deputy chief physician Eeva Ruotsalainen told Yle.

Read more on this story here.

30.11 11:55 Finland reports 283 new cases

Finland recorded 283 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases on Monday, bringing the country's overall number of infections to 24,912, according to the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

Most of the infections were seen in the region of Uusimaa, with 191 new cases, followed by Northern Ostrobothnia and Southwest Finland with 30 and 15 new cases respectively.

30.11 10:58 Neste closes Naantali refinery, 370 to lose jobs

State-owned oil company Neste has announced that it will shut down its refinery in Naantali by the end of March 2021. The firm has announced 370 job cuts as part of the restructuring, as opposed to its previous estimate of 470.

The personnel involved in the co-determination talks have publicly criticised the negotiations and said they believed that the outcome was predetermined.

Read more on this story here.

29.11 17:45 Marin defends emails

Prime Minister Sanna Marin started the weekend at the centre of a media fuss over emails that appeared to show her frustration with government partners and regional government. On Sunday she denied criticising other parties, saying that she was just offering a realistic assessment of the situation.

In her interview with political journalists, Marin said that the coronavirus situation might well get worse before it gets better, because Finland has been late in implementing new measures to tackle the second wave.

Read our story here.

29.11 13:26 Uusimaa journey numbers bounce back

Mobile data analysis suggests that people in Uusimaa are starting to move about more than during the spring, when Covid restrictions were at their peak. Anonymised figures from Telia suggest that journeys are now at around 80 percent of the level seen in February.

Read our story here.

29.11 13:15 332 new infections

THL announced on Sunday that there were 322 new infections in Finland in the last 24 hours. The majority of the infections, 193, were found in the Helsinki region. 46 were recorded in North Ostrobothnia and 24 in South-west Finland.

In total, Finland has now recorded 24,629 confirmed Covid-19 cases.

28.11 16:10 Pirkanmaa preparing for stricter restrictions

The region of Pirkanmaa, which contains Finland's second most-populated urban area in the city of Tampere, is preparing to introduce stricter restrictions aimed at tackling the increased spread of coronavirus in the region.

On Friday, 39 new infections of the virus were detected, which the highest daily rate for the region during the entire pandemic.

Tampere Mayor Lauri Lyly (SDP) wrote on Twitter on Saturday that this is a "very worrying trend", and that the measures in Pirkanmaa must be further tightened.

28.11 15:33 PM criticises Helsinki authorities, government partners in emails

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) told a former ministerial state secretary in emails that she was "deeply frustrated" by the slow response and decision-making by both the Helsinki Metropolitan Area authorities and her own government coalition partners.

Read more on this story here.

28.11 11:44 THL reports 541 new infections

The National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) has reported 541 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, bringing the total number of cases to 24,307.

28.11 11:32 About 80 confirmed infections at Oulu plant

At least 80 coronavirus infections have been confirmed among employees at Stora Enso's paperboard mill in Oulu, where production was partially suspended on Thursday.

27.11 18:25 Army takes covid precautions as 4,000-strong exercises start

Finland is hosting large scale military exercises, which will involve a total of about 4,200 people, starting Monday.

The week-long exercise will be held mainly in Kouvola in the Kymenlaakso region, which entered the “acceleration phase” this week. Some will also train in the Mäntyharju area in Southern Savonia.

The drills are being organised against the backdrop of a rapidly deteriorating coronavirus situation in the country. Defense Forces however said they made special arrangements to make the week-long exercises Covid-safe.

Read the full story here.

27.11 16:00 Cultural venues, indoor sports facilities in Helsinki region to close

Authorities in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area have announced a slew of stricter recommendations and restrictions to combat the rapidly deteriorating coronavirus situation.

The measures include the closure of city facilities, such as libraries and museums, as well as all indoor sports facilities. Outdoor group sports activities for people aged over 20 will also be cancelled. In addition, public events will be restricted to no more than 10 people.

The region’s coronavirus coordination group said the new restrictions will last for three weeks starting 30 November but could be extended if the situation continues to worsen. The measures apply to the cities of Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen.

Read more on this here.

27.11 15:35 Regions report moving into spreading phase

A number of regions and cities across Finland have reported moving into either the spreading or acceleration phase of the coronavirus epidemic on Friday.

Authorities in Northern Satakunta, in the south west of Finland, reported today that the region is now in the spreading phase, while neighbouring South Ostrobothnia and the region of Kainuu in the east have both now entered the acceleration phase, according to authorities in each region.

Meanwhile, the regional pandemic group in Kanta-Häme said they are preparing to declare entering the spreading phase this weekend, while authorities in the city of Jyväskylä in Central Finland announced that the city is in the acceleration phase with new recommendations on hobbies and public gatherings expected in the coming days.

27.11 13:05 Finland reports 618 new cases, five deaths

Finland’s National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) announced on Friday that 618 new coronavirus infections had been confirmed in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to 23,766.

This is the highest daily figure of confirmed cases recorded in Finland so far, although it should be noted that testing is more prevalent now than it was during the spring.

Once again the majority of new cases, 352, were found in the densely populated Helsinki University hospital district.

THL also reported five more deaths linked to the coronavirus since Wednesday. There are now 134 people hospitalised, 21 of whom are in intensive care.

27.11 9:28 Papers: Avoiding Helsinki and immigrant community outbreaks

Finland’s press on Friday reports on a number of coronavirus-related stories, including an article in Tampere-based Aamulehti on an expected recommendation that residents of the region do not travel to the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.

Meanwhile tabloid Iltalehti writes that a disproportionate level of current coronavirus infections in the capital are being confirmed among members of the immigrant community.

Read more on these stories, and the rest of our paper review, here.

26.11 20:25 Veikkaus shuts most slot machines and gaming arcades

Finland’s state-owned gaming company Veikkaus will close gaming arcades and slot machines in areas of the country that are in the acceleration or community transmission phase of the epidemic. They will remain shut until at least mid-December, the firm said on Thursday.

More details here.

26.11 17:44 APN Podcast: Covid, cost-cutting and Father Christmas

On this week's episode of the All Points North podcast, we explore fresh restrictions and talk of new emergency measures.

We also speak to Helsinki University aerosol scientist Mikael Ehn who tells us why he believes airborne particles are so efficient at spreading the virus and find out if Santa is coming to town. Read more on this here

You can also listen to the full podcast via the embedded player here or via Yle Areena, Spotify, Apple Podcasts or your usual podcast player using the RSS feed.

Audio: Yle News

Blog continues after audio.

26.11 16:00 Stora Enso cuts production in Oulu after outbreak

Forest products company Stora Enso has shut down some paperboard production following a coronavirus outbreak at its Oulu mill.

Numerous coronavirus infections have been confirmed among employees at the site, but the company has not released information on the number of people who have been infected or quarantined.

At least 18 employees of the Valmet corporation, which is the main contractor for a new paperboard machine being installed at the site, have also been infected.

Full article here.

26.11 12:48 Finland reports 496 new cases

The National Institute for Health and Welfare of Finland (THL) announced on Thursday that 496 new coronavirus infections had been confirmed in the past 24 hours, bringing the overall total number of cases to 23,148.

As usual, by far the largest number, 315, were in the densely populated Helsinki and Uusimaa healthcare district, with nearly half of those in the capital.

26.11 11:52 Marin: No emergency powers -- yet

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday morning, Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) said that the continuing rise in coronavirus infections is bringing the government closer to declaring a state of emergency, but Finland is not at that stage yet.

Read more on this story here.

26.11 9:19 Papers: Government reviewing emergency powers

Finland's largest circulation daily newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat, is reporting on Thursday morning that it has seen an internal government memo stating that the increase in the number of coronavirus infections has brought the country close to conditions for the imposition of a state of emergency.

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

25.11 20:20 Trade union: Wellbeing of service workers at risk

Finland's service workers' union PAM is worried about workers in the retail sector being overburdened during the coronavirus crisis.

“I am very concerned about the well-being of all workers in the service sector,” said Sirpa Laakso, Service Union United PAM's Chair and Hämeenmaa Cooperative’s steward.

Continued mask use, risk of exposure and misbehaving customers have reportedly taken a toll on retail workers.

Read more on this here.

25.11 19:23 PM Marin: No plans for a mask mandate

Finland is not planning to impose a mandatory mask ruling, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) told reporters ahead of a government discussion on the coronavirus situation on Wednesday evening.

We are not planning to force people to wear a mask or, for example, to penalise those who do not use a mask,” Marin said.

During Wednesday’s session, the government will among other matters, review the coronavirus situation and discuss if there is a need to invoke the Emergency Powers Act as it did during spring. According to Marin, the situation doesn’t seem to call for a state of emergency.

Read more on this story here.

25.11 15:06 Helsinki City Theatre begins layoff talks

Helsinki City Theatre began co-determination negotiations affecting its entire staff, the company said in a press release on Wednesday. Cancellations caused by the coronavirus epidemic and the decline in the number of audiences have significantly weakened its finances, the theatre said.

Helsinki City Theatre employs about 240 monthly paid theatre professionals and about 100 temporary workers.

The theatre had to cancel its performances until 13 December, to comply with the latest coronavirus-related restrictions imposed in the capital region last week.

25.11 14:06 Finland reports 363 new infections, four deaths

The National Institute for Health and Welfare of Finland (THL) announced on Wednesday that 363 new coronavirus infections had been confirmed in the past 24 hours, bringing the overall total number of cases to 22,652.

The majority of the new cases, 231, were detected in the Helsinki University hospital district (HUS).

THL also reported four more deaths linked to coronavirus since Monday. There are now 134 people being treated in hospital for the virus, 21 of whom are in intensive care.

25.11 11:28 Traficom announces layoff talks, Plantagen closes stores for winter

Finland's Transport and Communications Agency (Traficom) has announced that layoff talks with staff representatives will begin in early December, with the aim of cutting up to 120 jobs.

The agency said in a press release that the coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on the transport sector, and will continue to do so for at least the next three years.

Meanwhile nationwide garden centre chain Plantagen said it plans to close five of its stores for the winter, as the adverse economic conditions have led to a downturn in sales. Plantagen stores in the cities of Kaarina, Lahti, Lappeenranta and Raisio have already shut their doors, with the Jyväskylä outlet set to close on Friday.

25.11 9:10 Papers: Minister v Mayor row escalates

Finland's largest circulation daily Helsingin Sanomat is reporting of increasing tensions between Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori (NCP) and Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) over the correct strategy for curbing the spread of coronavirus infections in the capital region.

Read more on this story, and the rest of our paper round-up, here.

Read previous updates here.

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