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City of Turku issues face mask recommendations ahead of national guidelines

Mayor Minna Arve said the city did not want to wait for national face mask use advisories to be announced.

Busseja Turun kauppatorin laidalla.
City buses parked by Turku Market Square (file photo) Image: Petra Ristola / Yle

Given that kids head back to school next Wednesday in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus crisis, the southwestern city of Turku has issued guidelines about the use of face masks on public transportation, making it the first city in Finland to do so.

The city suggested that passengers wear face masks on buses when they are crowded and it is not possible to keep adequate safe distances from other riders.

"It is recommended that people wear masks so that we can take care of the epidemic situation. Clearly there are more cases happening here in Turku now and the situation could change quickly," Mayor Minna Arve said.

The city also encouraged people to avoid using public transport during busy morning and afternoon rush hours. The recommendations are voluntary and passengers would need to provide their own masks.

Voluntary compliance

"This is a recommendation and not a requirement. It's good to remind people that it's up to all of us to keep the situation under control. However, [wearing a mask] is a pretty small effort," she said.

It was widely thought such an announcement was going to be made during a press conference on Thursday by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Institute for Health and Welfare THL, but authorities are now expected to issue national recommendations on face mask use in public places next week.

The ministry's permanent secretary, Kirsi Varhila, has said she is certain that country-wide recommendations regarding face mask use will be issued. She said authorities are still considering when that would take effect, and whether it would be national or regional.

Arve said that the City of Turku did not want to wait for such recommendations to be made.

"I very much hoped that the THL's recommendation [regarding face mask use] would have come yesterday [Thursday]. It is reasonable that people will be able to prepare a little in advance as schools start here on Wednesday," Arve said.

The city said it plans to update its guidelines on face mask use if and when health officials issue them at the national level.

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