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Coronavirus latest: Mask rules under scrutiny, minister calls for public transport rescue, quarantines at Vantaa school

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

mies asetta maskia kasvoilleen
Finland has still not recommended the widespread use of masks by the public. Image: Marja Väänänen / Yle
  • 6,628 lab-confirmed infections as of Tuesday (26.5), up by 29 since Monday
  • 312 deaths due to Covid-19 complications as of Tuesday (26.5) (up by four since Monday)
  • 95 people in hospital on Tuesday (26.5), 11 of them in intensive care
  • Some 4,800 people have recovered from Covid-19
  • 14 placed in quarantine at Vantaa school
  • Minister proposes bailout for public transport sector
  • PM says she was unaware coronavirus records were withheld
  • Consumer watchdog says firms can require masks for health reasons
  • Finland split on planned EU coronavirus bailout

26.05 15:55 14 quarantined at school in Vantaa

Fourteen people at Vantaa’s Ilola school have been quarantined after exposure to novel coronavirus, the city said in a statement on Tuesday. Officials said that one person at the school had tested positive for the virus.

26.5 15:05 Minister floats public transport rescue package

Transport and Communications Minister Timo Harakka says government may set aside funding in its supplemental budget to support public transport operators affected by the coronavirus crisis. Harakka told Yle that between 80 and 90 percent of commuters vanished when the pandemic struck Finland, as they tried to avoid exposure to the virus.

The capital region transport authority Helsinki Regional Transport has said that it is losing around 20 million euros per month in ticket sales. It has asked the government for 100 million euros to shore up operations. Read the full story here.

26.5 11:50 Marin denies knowledge of coronavirus records being made secret

Prime Minister Sanna Marin has said that she did not know officials in her office had refused to release documents relating to a coronavirus coordination group's work.

Our story is here.

26.5 11:11 Mask rule under scrutiny

Can companies demand customers wear masks? Yes, according to consumer rights lawyer Tuula Sario. She says Finnair and others are within their rights to demand face coverings during the pandemic, but there could be more clarity on how the rule will be enforced.

Read more in the full story here.

26.5 9:25 Finland divided on EU's coronavirus bailout

Today's paper review includes Kauppalehti's editorial on the Finnish stance on EU bailouts. There's no unanimity among leaders on how to respond to the Merkel-Macron proposal for a 500 billion euro fund for poorer regions, but Prime Minister Sanna Marin says she wants to be 'constructive'.

Read the review here.

25.5 20:32 Startups look for €250m boost as crisis dries up investments

Finnish startups say they want government to set up a 250-million-euro investment fund as the administration begins talks on a new round of funding for the business sector.

The Finnish Venture Capital Association (FVCA) has proposed two separate financing schemes to Finnish Industry Investment Ltd, Tesi, a state-owned equity investor. One of the proposals would create a 100-million-euro investment fund that would apply to roughly 100 to 150 early-stage startups. Read the whole story here.

25.5 19:31 Constitutional Committee calls for changes to govt's restaurant restriction plans

On Monday the Finnish Parliament’s Constitutional Law Committee said that the government's proposed restrictions on restaurants still need adjustment, just one week before eateries were scheduled to reopen. One of the committee's chief concerns was that the five-month restrictions were too long to be considered temporary. Read more here.

25.5 18:57 Crisis to shrink Finnish GDP by 8%, Etla says

Finland's GDP is set to shrink by eight percent this year, according to ETLA Economic Research (Etla), a business lobby-backed research organisation. The industries which will suffer the most will be the hotel and restaurant services sectors, which are set to contract by about 30 percent this year, according to the lobby's economic outlook on various sectors published on Monday. Read more here.

25.5 17:12 No plans for Covid quick tests at Helsinki Airport

Carrying out coronavirus tests on passengers at Helsinki Airport would not significantly increase air traffic safety, nor prevent the spread of Covid-19, according to Jussi Sane, leading expert at the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

Some European airports offer passengers coronavirus tests to possibly avoid mandatory two-week quarantines. Read our story here.

25.5 15:11 Crisis deals heavy blow to low-income kids

A new study by Save the Children in Finland has found that the coronavirus crisis has dealt a blow to families that were already financially insecure before the epidemic hit. Half of teens from families where money was tight before the arrival of the epidemic said their parents’ finances had further weakened.

The Finnish branch of the international NGO found that worries about parents' ability to cope and family finances weighed heavily on some teens' minds. Read more about the findings here.

25.5 13:48 Ministry requests €100m in PPE from national stockpile agency

The Social Affairs and Health Ministry has presented the National Emergency Supply Agency with a request to procure 100 million euros worth of personal protective equipment (PPE) as it prepares for another phase of the novel coronavirus epidemic.

On Monday the ministry said that it is preparing for a possible continuation of the epidemic, changes in the situation and a demand for more PPE. The ministry is asking the stockpile agency to purchase 150 million pairs of disposable nitrile gloves, nine million surgical masks, 12 million protective gowns and aprons and at least 1.5 million protective masks.

The ministry said that it wants to place orders for the protective gear between June and August and to store it at the agency’s premises. It also proposed that the equipment be sourced from manufacturers in Finland to safeguard domestic production and to ensure availability.

Blog continues after photo

Hoitaja Varkauden sairaalan koronaosaston ovella suojavarusteissa.
The Social Affairs and Health Ministry said it wants the equipment to be sourced from local manufacturers. Image: Toni Pitkänen / Yle

25.5 12:29 20 new coronavirus cases in Finland

Finland reported 20 lab-confirmed novel coronavirus cases on Monday, according to the Finnish institute for Health and Welfare, THL. The new diagnoses bring the total number of cases in Finland to 6,599.

25.5 9:31 A day in the strawberry field can feel like forever

Our domestic news roundup on Monday looks at why Finns aren't flocking to farms to make up for the shortfall in foreign seasonal labour caused by the coronavirus crisis.

24.5 18:11 Nordea: Pandemic "a wake-up call" about household savings

Tanja Eronen, head of the savings and investment unit at Nordea Bank, says that the coronavirus pandemic has been a wake-up call for many that they should have money put away in case of sudden unexpected changes.

Meanwhile the Savings Banks Group reports a slight increase in the number of people investing in funds in April. More on saving and investment trends here.

Blog continues after story.

Säästöpossuja hyllyllä.
The pandemic is spurring some to realise they should have a piggy-bank for unexpected times of crisis. Image: Raila Paavola / Yle

24.5 14:23 Poll: More believe crisis will strengthen Finland

In an Yle/Taloustutkimus poll carried out in mid-May and published on Sunday, 36 percent of respondents said that Finland’s people will be “stronger together” after the pandemic, while 19 percent expect the nation to be weaker and more fragmented. A social scientist warns that the feeling of cohesion may dissipate quickly if crisis measures are seen as unequal.

Read more details here.

24.5 12:40 Fewer patients in ICUs, one death in three days

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported one more Covid-19 fatality on Sunday, the first since Thursday. The two-day lull without reported deaths was the longest in two months. That brings the total to 307 since the first confirmed death on 21 March.

Meanwhile the number of patients in hospital rose by two but the number in intensive care dropped by the same margin, to 19.

23.5 14:30 PM orders document release after secrecy allegations

Prime Minister Sanna Marin has ordered the government’s coronavirus coordination task force to release all non-confidential documents after the team was accused of concealing information.

In a tweet on Saturday afternoon, Marin said she had discussed the team’s operations with her state secretary, Mikko Koskinen, who heads the group. She said she told him to release all non-classified information used by the team.

The premier’s statement followed a report from the Finnish News Agency STT, which said that the coronavirus task force had failed to hand over documentation requested last month. You can read more details here.

23.5 12:42 Second day without fatalities, 9 patients leave hospital

The national health agency THL said on Saturday that there had been no new deaths attributed to Covid-19 since Thursday.

That marks the first two-day stretch without any reported fatalities in two months. Finland's first death was reported on 21 March, followed by the second and third on 25 March.

The number of patients in hospital dropped by nine to 104, while the number in intensive care remained steady at 21.

The number of lab-confirmed infections edged up by 31 to 6568. However only about three percent of the population (some 165,600 people) have been tested, so the actual number is considerably higher.

22.5 16:20 Coronavirus death toll unchanged since Thursday

No new Covid-19 related deaths were reported on Friday compared to the previous day, with the total death toll remaining at 306, according to the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

Confirmed coronavirus cases increased by 44 on Friday, bringing the official total to 6,537. Meanwhile the number of those receiving intensive care treatment declined by one patient to 21.

THL reported that a total of around 163,000 coronavirus tests have been carried out since the outbreak began, an increase of about 2,900 more tests since Thursday. The health agency said the country currently has the capacity to carry out 9,600 Covid-19 tests per day.

The number of people who've recovered from the disease is now estimated at about 4,800, a lower figure than previously reported, according to THL.

The lower recovered patient number is based on confirmed cases in patients who have not required follow-up treatment for a period of at least three weeks, while previously the standard was a period of two weeks, the agency said.

The epidemic continues to progress at different rates across the country, with the majority of cases still being seen in the Uusimaa region, according to THL.

22.5 15:40 More quarantined after second infection confirmed at Sipoo school

A second coronavirus case has been confirmed at the Sipoonjoki school in the southern municipality of Sipoo, according to local officials. The institution is the municipality's third school affected by coronavirus cases since reopening last week. Read more here.

22.5 13:40 Niinistö criticises EU bailouts

President Sauli Niinistö has spoken out against EU bailouts in his media conference ahead of Sunday's Kultaranta Talks, a discussion event held each year at his summer residence.

Niinistö said countries should be responsible for their own borrowing, even when coronavirus prompts big stimulus spending. Our story on the press conference is here.

22.5 11:03 Housing prices to fall, says lender

The coronavirus crisis has had an impact on most aspects of the Finnish economy, and the housing market is no different. Mortgage lender Hypo says it expects prices to fall in the summer, following a reduction in sales volumes during the spring.

Our story is here.

22.5 9:21 Vaccine access concerns

Today's paper review includes stories about potential problems for Finland in accessing a possible coronavirus vaccine, tensions in the government and some sunny weather on the way.

Read the review here.

Read previous coronavirus blog updates in our archive here.

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