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Coronavirus latest: 797 new cases, PM's plea, government mulls curfew order

This article brings you the latest updates on the novel coronavirus pandemic in Finland.

Karaokebaari Erottaja Bar Helsingissä 24. helmikuuta.
A downtown Helsinki karaoke bar is just one of many establishments to be affected by a government-ordered partial shutdown. Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva
  • 59,442 lab-confirmed infections as of Wednesday 3.3 (up by 797 since Tuesday)
  • 759 deaths attributed to coronavirus as of Wednesday 3.3 (up by 4 since Tuesday)
  • 258 people in hospital, 37 of them in intensive care as of Wednesday 3.3
  • 404,436 people (7.3% of the population) had received at least one vaccination dose as of 3.3
  • THL reports on Covid-related fatalities and hospital patient statistics on weekdays

3.3 20:20 Constitutional Law Committee gives green light for restaurant closures

The Finnish Parliament's Constitutional Law Committee has given the green light to a government proposal on the temporary closure of restaurants. The committee was unanimous in its decision on Wednesday.

The government announced last week it was planning a three-week closure of pubs, bars and restaurants, which meant the committee was given only a week to deal with the law on closures and compensation for businesses affected.

Read more on this story here.

3.3 20:10 Shutdown, Avi, Emergency Powers... What do they all mean?

Do you know your AVI from your STM?

Do you sometimes mistake the Communicable Diseases Act for the emergency powers laws?

Don't worry. As Finland's Covid response ramps up, we have tried to clear up some of the confusion around terms used in press conferences and speeches.

Read our explanations on commonly used terms here.

3.3 16:25 Coronavirus situation in Finnish armed forces "alarming"

At the moment, there are just over 70 people infected with coronavirus in the Finnish Defence Forces, and at least ten times as many have been exposed to the virus. The infections have risen considerably since February.

An epidemiologist with the military described the trend as "alarming".

An overall total of less than 400 cases of coronavirus have been recorded in the Finnish armed forces throughout the pandemic. Around one-third of the infections have been diagnosed among staff, and two-thirds of infections have been among conscripts.

Read the full story here.

3.3 15:40 Pirkanmaa secondary, vocational schools move to remote learning

Authorities in the Pirkanmaa region, which contains Finland's second largest urban area in the city of Tampere, have reversed a previous decision to keep students in classrooms from 8 to 28 March. Instead, students in grades 7-9 as well as high schools and vocational schools will move to remote learning for three weeks starting from next Monday.

3.3 14:24 Half of Lapland's coronavirus cases found in visitors

Domestic tourists travelling to the north have been linked to a rise in coronavirus cases as half the coronavirus cases in Lapland in the past two weeks have been detected in visitors from outside the region.

Kolari Health Centre carried out 350 coronavirus tests last week, which is around a hundred more than in a typical week, said the municipality's chief doctor Ulla Ylläsjärvi.

However, an infectious disease expert from Lapland Hospital District said that although the current incidence of coronavirus in Lapland was high, all infections had been traced and no mass exposures had been detected.

Read more on this here.

3.3 11:45 797 cases on Wednesday – a new daily record

THL reports 797 new coronavirus cases in Finland, bringing the total to 59,442.

The Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district saw 465 of those, with 114 in Southwest Finland and 65 in Satakunta.

797 is now the highest daily number of new coronavirus infections reported in Finland since the pandemic began, passing a previous high of 720 recorded last Friday.

3.3 11:30 PM Marin makes plea to stay in, even if places are open

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) has called on people to avoid going to indoor leisure facilities, even though those facilities are still open.

Read more on this story here.

3.3 10:38 Government mulls curfew order

Finland's government is continuing deliberations over the introduction of a curfew in many parts of the country aimed at tackling the worsening coronavirus situation.

Although the exact details are unclear at this stage, the curfew is likely to involve restrictions on movement in certain areas or at certain times, especially in regions considered to be in the "accelerating" or "community transmission" phases of the epidemic.

Yle understands that the police would be given additional powers to enforce the curfew, and could fine offenders if necessary.

3.3 9:01 Papers: Pandemic lessons, vaccine alternatives

Wednesday morning's papers look at the lessons that can be learned from the past year fighting the coronavirus pandemic as well as the options Finland has for procuring coronavirus vaccines fall outside of the EU's joint procurement programme.

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

2.3 20:05 Confirmed cases continue at Rauma shipyard

A further 54 lab-confirmed coronavirus infections have been diagnosed among workers at a shipyard in Rauma. This brings the total number of cases since the outbreak was first detected two week ago to 324 - meaning that roughly a third of the yard's approximately 1,000 workers have been infected with the virus.

Testing will continue this week, so new confirmed cases are likely to still be found.

2.3 15:48 Employment rate drops below 70%

The number of people in employment in January this year was down by 61,000 compared to January 2020, according to preliminary figures released by Statistics Finland.

Finland’s employment rate now stands at 69.9 percent, which is two percentage points lower than a year ago.

In response to the latest jobs figures, the Finland Chamber of Commerce called on the government to ease the uncertainty in the Finnish economy created by the ongoing pandemic.

You can read more here.

2.3 15:14 Parliament begins debate on closure of bars, restaurants

Parliament has begun considering the government's proposal to close bars and restaurants from 8 to 28 March in regions in the spreading and community transmission phase of the epidemic, after which the matter will be referred to parliamentary committees.

The proposal is being heard as a matter of urgency on Tuesday, before being passed to Parliament's Constitutional Law Committee on Wednesday and the Committee on Economic Affairs a day later.

Read more here.

2.3 14:47 Gyms, sports facilities can reopen in southern Finland within limits

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland (Avi) have resolved a dispute over whether gyms and other free-time facilities may be open if they host no more than 10 people at a time.

There is more on this story here.

2.3 12:43 Situation stable at Meyer Turku Shipyard

Local health officials say that a coronavirus outbreak at the Meyer Turku Shipyard has stabilised after parts of the facility were closed and workers' contacts in the area limited. 128 cases have been confirmed among employees at the shipyard, as well as a further 25 associated with the outbreak.

2.3 12:34 Problems with vaccination bookings

Many people across the country say that they have had major difficulties in reserving appointments for coronavirus vaccinations, with long waits to get through to booking numbers and confusing variation in practice from municipality to municipality.

An Yle survey of 18 municipalities found the problem has been widespread, and was particularly evident in early February, when the vaccination roll-out expanded beyond nursing homes and moved to appointments at health centres.

More on the situation in this report.

2.3 12:13 581 more cases on Tuesday

THL reported 581 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, bringing the total to 58,645.

About 60 percent of the new cases were in the Helsinki University hospital district, with much smaller numbers in the southwest, including Turku, and northern Ostrobothnia, including Oulu.

2.3 10:12 Tuesday's papers: Curfew models and restaurant payments

The possibility of emergency curfews has led some papers to speculate what restrictions on movement might look like.

The papers also look at calls to the state for a pledge to fully reimburse restaurants for their fixed costs during the government-ordered three-week shutdown that is to begin on 8 March, and speculation that the municipal elections scheduled for April may be postponed due to the upswing in the coronavirus epidemic.

Read our press review here.

1.3 21:11 Government halts roll out of emergency powers

Finland's government has rowed back on plans to apply two provisions of the Emergency Powers Act, announced earlier on Monday in conjunction with the declaration of a state of emergency.

Read more here.

1.3 19:17 Number of passengers turned away at Helsinki port triples

Nearly 100 people were refused entry to Finland at the Port of Helsinki last week, triple the number from the previous week, according to figures provided by the Finnish Border Guard.

The most common reasons for refusal of entry were a threat posed to public health and the pursuit of work in Finland that was not deemed to be necessary for the security of supply and the functioning of society.

1.3 16:28 Construction workers in Tampere quarantined after outbreak

The City of Tampere is to begin a mass coronavirus testing effort at the Uros Live arena construction site, after 10 workers at the facility tested positive for the virus in recent days.

There is more on this story here.

1.3 14:25 Finland declares state of emergency

The government of Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) has declared a state of emergency in Finland due to the worsening coronavirus epidemic.

Read more on this story here.

1.3 12:46 Pandemic may transform lives of civil servants

The coronavirus pandemic is likely to have a transformative effect on the working lives of civil servants, as the number of government office premises is expected to decrease sharply in the future.

Read more on this story here.

1.3 12:06 Finland reports 392 cases on Monday

The Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported 392 new lab-confirmed coronavirus infections in the past day, bringing Finland's overall total since the beginning of the pandemic to 58,064.

Of the new infections, 251 were diagnosed in the Helsinki University Hospital District. The second highest number of infections, 33, was reported in the hospital district of Southwest Finland.

1.3 11:50 Experts claim few benefits to Covid tracing app

There have been few benefits from mobile device-based coronavirus tracing in Finland, according to an article in evening newspaper Iltalehti. Medical experts who were queried about Koronavilkku's benefits did not have much praise for the app, which cost the state around six million euros to develop. The general consensus, according to the paper, was that its tracing abilities are limited.

1.3 9:29 Papers: Finland to declare state of emergency

Yle News' newspaper review finds that tabloid Ilta-Sanomat was among several outlets reporting that the Finnish government is expected to formally declare a state of emergency at a cabinet meeting which starts just before noon on Monday.

As the paper points out, Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) indicated in a Twitter post on Friday that the step was imminent, and President Sauli Niinistö told the Finnish news agency STT on Thursday that agreement had been reached on implementing stringent new measures.

Read the whole review here.

28.2 17:26 New rules confusing and unfair, sports associations say

Finland’s partial shutdown announced by the government this week brings a number of new restrictions on group gatherings. But rules may be applied differently depending on if a hobby takes place in a public or private facility.

Sports groups have criticised the government and Southern Finland's Regional State Administrative Agency (Avi) for issuing conflicting Covid rules for team hobbies.

More here.

28.2 13:30 Total vaccinations surpass 370,000

On Sunday, officials reported that Finland had vaccinated a total of 370,874 people against coronavirus, an increase of 9,130 since Saturday.

About 6.7 percent of the population has received a vaccination so far. Most of those inoculated are over 80 years of age, and about half of people in this age groups have received one dose of the vaccine. On Sunday 81,125 individuals, or 1.4 percent of residents, had received both vaccine doses.

28.2 13:15 Finland sees 120 cases per 100,000

Over the last 14 days Finland has reported nearly 7,400 new cases, up from some 5,100 in the previous two-week period.

In the last two weeks, Finland's Covid incidence rate rose to 120 cases per 100,000 people, a jump from around 90 two weeks prior.

28.2 12:23 Customs won't use Covid sniffer dogs

Finnish Customs said it won’t employ specially trained sniffer dogs at border points after the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health said there was not enough evidence to support the canines' ability to detect the virus, reports Helsingin Sanomat.

More on this story here.

28.2 12:05 Finland reports 620 new cases

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) on Sunday recorded 620 new lab-confirmed coronavirus infections, bringing Finland's overall total since the beginning of the pandemic to 57,672.

Of the new infections, 411 were diagnosed in the Helsinki University Hospital District. The second highest number of infections, 52, was reported in the hospital district of Southwest Finland.

27.2 12:16 Justice Minister: Finland preparing for curfew as situation worsens

Finland's Justice Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson told Yle's Ykkösaamu morning tv show on Saturday that preparations are being made to introduce a curfew in the country under the Emergency Powers Act if the coronavirus situation continues to deteriorate.

Read more on this story here.

27.2 12:05 Finland reports 645 new cases

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) has registered 645 new lab-confirmed coronavirus infections on Saturday, bringing Finland's overall total since the beginning of the pandemic to 57,052.

Of the new infections, 384 were diagnosed in the Helsinki University Hospital District. The second highest number of infections, 73, was reported in the hospital district of Southwest Finland while the third highest was found in the hospital district in Northern Ostrobothnia, with 26.

Finland has reported a total of 7,045 new infections over the past two weeks, which is about 1,900 more cases than over the previous two-week period.

27.2 10:23 MP diagnosed with coronavirus

Member of Parliament Eeva-Johanna Eloranta has been diagnosed with a coronavirus infection, according to a Parliament press release Parliament on Saturday. Parliament's Occupational Health Centre and the City of Helsinki's Infection Unit have launched follow-up investigations to determine possible exposures.

26.2 20:34 Capital region tightens measures - but ministry says not enough

Authorities in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area have further tightened restrictions aimed at tackling the spread of coronavirus in the region, but the measures have been criticised by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (STM) as not going far enough.

Read more on this story here.

26.2 17:49 Minister: State support for events industry

Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä (Cen) said on Friday that the government will reimburse event industry firms for cancellations caused by coronavirus restrictions.

Read more here.

26.2 16:10 Authorities suspect fake Covid test certs behind Rauma outbreak

Health authorities in the Satakunta region suspect falsified coronavirus test certificates may have led to a major coronavirus outbreak at a shipyard in the city of Rauma.

There is more on this story here.

26.2 13:54 PM Marin: No return to normal after shutdown

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) told Yle on Friday that life in Finland won’t return to normal immediately after the March shutdown, adding that most of the new restrictions announced on Thursday will continue.

Read more on this story here.

26.2 13:00 Finland hits new daily coronavirus record with 720 cases

Public health institute THL on Friday reported 720 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases--a new daily record for Finland. In the last 14 days the country has reported 1,665 more cases than in the previous two-week period.

26.2 10:50 Cases won't decrease for months, expert says

Veli-Matti Ulander, chief administrative physician at Helsinki University Hospital District (HUS), said new infections would only begin declining closer to May Day.

"The worst situation for hospitals could be at the end of March and during Easter, unfortunately," Ulander said.

The heightened restrictions, referred to by officials as a partial shutdown, were announced by the government on Thursday.

More on this story here.

26.2 9:21 Papers: School exposures, vaccines for teachers and jab queue

Among other topics in Friday's newspaper review, we learned that experts are concerned about the risk of secondary school pupils bringing coronavirus infections to classrooms after this week's winter holidays.

25.2 19:50 Incorrect vaccine doses given in Pirkanmaa

Around 50 people vaccinated in the town of Nokia will need to be revaccinated as they were given doses that were too small. Those affected will be contacted in person.

Using the so-called 'air bubble technique', shown at official vaccine training sessions, it is possible for vaccinators to inadvertently underdose when using the Pfizer and Biontech vaccine.

According to Katja Ylitolva, medical director at the town of Nokia, the incorrect doses were administered only on 24 February.

More on this story here.

25.2 17:30 How will the new shutdown affect you?

On Thursday, the government announced that Finland is about to enter a three-week shutdown, beginning on 8 March.

This means that in the areas where the virus is in the 'spreading' and 'acceleration' stages, an immediate transition to the stricter 'Tier 2' measures is recommended.

These tougher 'Tier 2' measures will apply to seven areas: Helsinki and Uusimaa, Southwest Finland, Satakunta, Kanta-Häme, Vaasa, Åland and Lapland.

The government also recommended for hospital districts in the acceleration stage to impose restrictions effective immediately.

These areas are East Savo, South Karelia, Pirkanmaa, Central Finland, Päijät-Häme, Länsi-Pohja, North Ostrobothnia, South Ostrobothnia and Kymenlaakso.

Read how the new shutdown will affect you here.

25.2 16:10 Tallink reports 108 million euro loss and 3,000 layoffs in 2020

Estonian ferry and shipping company Tallink lost 108.3 million euros in 2020, according to financial results published on Thursday.

The Helsinki–Stockholm route, operated by the company's Silja Line brand, was among those put on hold as the virus spread last year.

Read more here.

25.2 12:05 Case figures jump in Finland, 565 new cases on Thursday

Finland recorded another 565 confirmed Covid cases on Thursday, bringing the total to 55,687 since the start of the pandemic. Thursday's cases are concentrated in Uusimaa, which recorded some 366 of them.

At the weekly briefing on Covid, officials announced that in the week beginning on 15 February prevalence jumped to 62 cases per 100,000 residents. The previous week, that figure had been 46 per 100,000 residents.

Officials said that non-urgent procedures had been postponed in Helsinki because of the increased numbers of Covid patients in hospitals, and caseloads were increasing at hospitals nationwide.

The majority of infections are among working-age people, especially young adults. Of all cases, some 80 percent were detected among people aged under 50 and around 45 percent among people aged under 30.

Cases among those aged over 60 accounted for nine percent of the total, and the over-70s made up three percent of all cases.

Some 11,000 people were ordered to quarantine last week, which is some 2,700 more than during the previous week.

As of 22 February there had been some 690 cases of mutated Covid variants in Finland, with 660 of those the British variant.

Of those, some 529 were recorded in the Helsinki region.

25.2 10:38 Lockdown announced

Finland has announced expanded Covid control measures, including more remote learning for some pupils and a three-week shutdown for pubs and restaurants starting on 8 March. Read more here.

25.2 08:40 Papers: Another state of emergency?

Thursday morning's papers look ahead to a government coronavirus press conference scheduled for 09:30 this morning, with the expectation that the country is about to enter a state of emergency like the one last spring.

Elsewhere, Iltalehti raises the prospect of faster coronavirus testing, as a Finnish lab introduces portable equipment that can analyse PCR tests onsite.

You can read more about these stories and more here.

Previous updates available here.

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