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Coronavirus latest: Helsinki region mayors ask for mask policy, border restrictions reinstated in three countries, travel abroad causes new cases

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

Joukko nuoria kävelee kadulla, yhdellä heistä on päällä kasvomaski.
Finland is awaiting new mask guidelines from public health agency THL. Image: Arttu Timonen / Yle
  • 7,532 lab-confirmed infections as of Thursday 6.8 (up by 20 from Wednesday)
  • 331 deaths linked to coronavirus as of Wednesday 5.8 (unchanged since Tuesday 4.8)
  • 6 people in hospital as of Wednesday 5.8 (unchanged since Tuesday 4.8)
  • 0 in intensive care as of Wednesday 5.8 (down 1 from Tuesday 4.8)

6.8 19:18 Helsinki to set up new testing points, mayors ask for mask policy

New coronavirus testing points will be set up in the city, Helsinki mayor Jan Vapaavuori announced on Thursday. The move is part of a raft of measures being taken to deal with the coronavirus situation in the capital. "Although the situation is well under control in Helsinki and Finland, we need to be mentally prepared for the situation to worsen quickly," Vapaavuori said.

The mayors of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa, and other key players met on Thursday and took a stance in favour of a clear mask recommendation in a press release.

Read more here.

6.8 15:58 APN podcast: Finland mulls over masks amid Covid case count creep

As the national Covid-19 case count shows signs of climbing, Finnish public health officials announced a targeted approach to possible face mask guidelines at a press conference on Thursday. This week All Points North delves into the background for the proposed mask recommendations and what they could possibly contain.

You can listen to the full podcast via the embedded player here, Yle Areena, Spotify, Apple Podcasts or your usual podcast player using the RSS feed. Be sure to subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts and sign up for the APN newsletter.

Story continues after audio

Audio: Yle News

6.8 15.50 Travel restrictions reinstated on Belgium, Netherlands and Andorra

Government has announced it will reintroduce restrictions on travellers returning from the Netherlands, Belgium and Andorra as of Monday, 8 August. In all three countries, the number of coronavirus cases has increased since restrictions were initially lifted on 13 July.

The government had said that border controls can be waived only if less than eight cases have been detected per 100,000 people in 14 days. The situation will be reviewed every two weeks.

Read more here.

6.8 12.18 Health officials: Mask recommendation may be on regional basis

Kirsi Varhila, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, said on Thursday morning that the government would consider possible changes to restrictions on travel and other sectors later in the day.

As to face masks, Varhila said that current law does not allow authorities to order their use, but that she is sure there will be a recommendation to do so. She said that authorities are still considering when that would take effect, and whether it would be national or regional.

More details here.

5.8 20:38 International travel prompts uptick in cases

Health officials in Finland have noted an increase in confirmed coronavirus infections during July, following the relaxation of government-implemented restrictions over the summer. The number of confirmed cases rose during the second half of July in some areas, but physicians were hesitant to confirm whether the country was beginning to see a second wave of the epidemic. Read our story here.

5.8 14:10 Yle: Big variations in workplace mask practices

New guidelines in the works by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, THL, will likely require mask use in public spaces and public transportation to prevent a resurgence of Covid-19. However employers are waiting to see how the imminent recommendations will affect their everyday operations.

Yle noticed major differences in firms' workplace mask policies, with employees supplying their own masks in some instances, while in other cases, firms moved early on to mandate mask use. Read more about the straw poll here.

5.8 13:10 29 new coronavirus cases in Finland

Finland confirmed 29 new lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, according to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, THL. The running total of cases is now 7,512. No new deaths were reported on Wednesday, while six people were said to be in hospital, no patients were warded in intensive care units.

5.8 09:08 Media focus on rising coronavirus case count

Finland's coronavirus case count is slowly increasing, and fears of a second wave of the epidemic are growing. Ilta-Sanomat warned that Helsinki University hospital district official Eeva Ruotsalainen reckons the rise is a concern, and showed a graphic indicating that the prevalence of Covid-19 in the capital city region had quadrupled in four weeks over the summer.

Helsingin Sanomat and Iltalehti both carry lengthy interviews with Health Minister Krista Kiuru asking how she plans to tackle the situation. Read more about Wednesday's newspaper roundup here.

4.8 18:48 Greater Helsinki region burdened with spike in coronavirus tests

Demand for novel coronavirus tests in the capital region last week was one of the highest of the summer, according to the Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district's (HUS) interim chief medical officer, Jarkko Pajarinen.

The increase in testing has caused delays of several days. However the district is planning to open new testing queues, one of which is a drive-in facility in Espoo. Read more here.

4.8 15:53 THL to issue recommendation on mask use on Thursday

A recommendation on the use of face masks will be issued on Thursday, according to Markku Tervahauta, Director General of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, THL. On Sunday, a leading official from THL, Mika Salminen, told Yle that the agency could recommend the wearing of face masks in public spaces and on public transport this week.

According to Tervahauta, such an announcement has been delayed because the agency and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health are still finalising the contents of the recommendation.

4.8 15:40 Two new deaths, 17 new coronavirus cases in Finland

Two people have died from the novel coronavirus, bringing the death toll from the pandemic to 331, according to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, THL. Finland also reported 17 new novel coronavirus cases on Tuesday, bringing the running total to 7,483.

The Uusimaa region has the highest number of infections — a total of 5,454. Of the cities, Helsinki has the highest number of infections at 2,793. So far, 919 infections have been diagnosed in Vantaa, 856 in Espoo, 218 in Turku and 142 in Tampere.

4.8 13:15 Schools prepare for coronavirus closures in autumn term

The start of the school year next week means a return to contact teaching, but schools are preparing for a worsening of the coronavirus situation. "We are starting the autumn in a situation where the coronavirus situation is calm, but the threat of the virus is not over," said Olli-Pekka Heinonen of the National Board of Education at a press conference on Tuesday.

Heinonen said there could be school closures in the autumn, as the coronavirus situation develops, but only if they are absolutely necessary to control the virus. Read the full story here.

4.8 9:31 Newspaper asks for clarity on masks

There has been much debate on the detail of Finland's forthcoming face mask recommendation, and evening tabloid Ilta-Sanomat continued the discussion on Tuesday. An editorial in the tabloid asked what could be done to ensure compliance, how poorer families will be able to afford their masks, and whether Finland needs to expand testing to cover asymptomatic people who suspect they were exposed to Covid-19.

You can read our press review here.

Blog continues after photo

Kertakäyttömaski henkilön kasvoilla.
Photo of woman securing a single-use surgical face mask. Image: Emmi Korhonen / Lehtikuva

3.8 20:17 Helsinki confirms coronavirus case at Finland's biggest amusement park

A group who visited Helsinki's Linnanmäki amusement park late last month may have exposed others to the novel coronavirus, according to an announcement from the city of Helsinki on Monday. The group in question visited the park on Sunday 26 July, roughly between the hours of 3-6pm. Read more here.

3.8 18:26 Youth unemployment count swells by 50,000 during corona crisis

The coronavirus crisis has cut employment by more than 50,000 among young people, according to fresh data. New figures from Statistics Finland indicate that in June this year there were 31,000 fewer 15 to 24-year-olds in jobs than in June last year. The corresponding figure for people in the 25 to 34-year-old age group was 24,000. Read more here.

3.8 16:40 Thai workers set to salvage Finland's wild berry harvest

Arrangements for Thai workers to pick berries in Finland this season were threatened by the coronavirus crisis as well as drawn-out legal disputes concerning weighty issues like human trafficking and employee protection laws. The Finnish government recently decided to allow 3,000 Thai migrant workers to come pick wild berries. Then, just over a week ago, officials in Thailand - with strict stipulations - gave their permission for the arrangement. One of the country's three largest berry firms said those decisions will help it survive the season virtually unscathed financially. Read the story here.

3.8 13:55 Helsinki Airport opens coronavirus test point

Passengers arriving from abroad to Helsinki's international airport are now being given the opportunity to get tested for the novel coronavirus. Not all passengers are to be tested. However, any arriving passengers with symptoms suggesting a coronavirus infection or travellers who suspect that they have been infected will referred to a health counselling and testing station opened at Helsinki's international airport. Read more here.

3.8 12:54 13 new coronvirus cases in Finland

Finland reported 13 new novel coronavirus cases on Monday, according to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, THL. The newly-reported infections bring the running total to 7,466. The death toll from the disease remains unchanged so far at 329.

3.8 12:30 Contact tracing app pilot begins

Finland will begin trialling a new coronavirus contact tracing app from Tuesday according to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, THL.

The agency said in a statement that a few dozen pilot users will include workers from the Pirkanmaa Hospital District as well as from the City of Helsinki. Other trial users will include personnel from the THL as well as benefits agency Kela and developers from IT firm Solita and the state-owned SoteDigi. Read more about the pilot here.

3.8 11:12 Tallink Silja halts cruises from Sweden

Shipping company Tallink Silja said on Monday that it planned to temporarily suspend ticket sales for trips between Stockholm and Turku on the Baltic Princess. The decision means that customers will not be able to depart on cruises from Stockholm.

The firm based its decision on travel restrictions still in place between Finland and Sweden over the coronavirus situation. Read more on that story here. Updated on 4.8 to indicate that Tallink Silja has suspended cruises departing from Stockholm.

3.8 09:26 Dailies cover traveler testing and safety, new mask recommendation

Tabloid daily Iltalehti reports Monday morning that the director general of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), Markku Tervahauta has confirmed that a face mask recommendation will come into force next week, in a bid to combat a possible second wave of coronavirus infections.

Meanwhile, Jyväskylä daily Keskisuomalainen reminds readers that as of Monday, passengers can get a coronavirus test at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. National rail company VR is also focusing on passenger safety by offering passengers the option of booking an entire compartment, in addition to reserving individual seats. Read the full morning news roundup here.

2.8 16:55 THL set to change course on face masks

Finland's health agency could be about to change its mind on recommending widespread use of face masks. THL's Mika Salminen told Yle on Sunday that he will meet his colleagues early next to discuss the issue. Our story is here.

2.8 12:41 Experts urge vigilance as restrictions ease

Finland is now allowing larger events to take place, and is no longer recommending people work from home if they can. As schools reopen after the holidays, there is concern that Finland may see new clusters of coronavirus cases -- but experts say if people follow hygiene guidelines and get tested even when they have mild symptoms, a second spike could be kept in check.

Our story is here.

1.8 14:15 Vaccine researchers aim for 2021 release

Finnish researchers working on a vaccine are to start testing their product in the coming days. It won't be ready till 2021, but could still play an important role in fighting the pandemic. Our story is here.

31.7 18:32 Research group says "face masks work", criticises ministry report

A Finnish research team has criticised a report commissioned by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in May which had concluded that widespread use of face masks have little or no effect on reducing the spread of upper respiratory infections.

The research group's new study used the same data that the ministry reviewed in its report to observe significant benefits in wearing face masks to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Using a face mask can reduce the risk of upper respiratory tract infections by about a third, the study found. Read the full story here.

31.7 17:00 PM Marin warns of second wave risk as restrictions end

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) took to Twitter on Friday afternoon to remind people that there is a risk the coronavirus crisis could re-escalate in Finland. Marin's reminder comes as the government’s restriction on large public gatherings and the recommendation to work from home if possible both end today. Marin added that restrictions might be reintroduced if a second wave of the virus hits Finland. Read more here.

31.7 14:43 Real estate market recovers after spring slump

The number of real estate transactions of old homes in housing companies was the same in June 2020 as it was during the corresponding period last year, but almost 30 per cent more than in May, according to Statistics Finland’s preliminary data.

The prices of old dwellings in housing companies rose by just under one per cent in Greater Helsinki region compared to June 2019. Elsewhere in the country, prices fell by four per cent. Meanwhile, prices for new accommodation rose in the second quarter of 2020. Read the full story here.

31.7 14:40 Nine new coronavirus infections detected

The National Institute for Health and Welfare, the THL on Friday reported nine new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed infections in Finland to 7,432.

30.7 20:31 APN podcast: Is it time to mask up?

This week's All Points North podcast looks at the debate around coronavirus restrictions in Finland. As the country allows bigger gatherings indoors, some experts have been asking people to start using face masks. We also consider getting out into the great outdoors, and the challenge of travelling to Finland if you're a foreign student.

You can listen to the full podcast via the embedded player here, Yle Areena, Spotify, Apple Podcasts or your usual podcast player using the RSS feed. Be sure to subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts and sign up for the APN newsletter.

Story continues after audio.

Audio: Yle News

30.7 20:25 Top doc warns over big events

The first festival of the Finnish summer is Sunfest, which takes place in the south-western town of Naantali on Friday and Saturday and is expected to draw thousands of people -- even though one top doctor says that maybe large events should still be banned.

Our story about Sunfest, Aura Fest, and the doctor who thinks maybe we shouldn't all rush to festivals, is here.

30.7 18:00 Daycare centres to take strict line

This autumn it could be more difficult than usual to persuade daycare teachers your child is healthy enough to attend nursery. Even a negative test result might not be enough. Our story is here.

30.7 13:51 Infection rate remains stable, says health ministry

The coronavirus infection rate remains steady in Finland, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health said on Thursday. It says that 51 new cases have been confirmed in the past week, the same weekly total as in late June.

The largest numbers of new lab-confirmed cases were in the Helsinki-Uusimaa and southwest Finland hospital districts. Of the country's 21 healthcare districts, 14 have reported no new cases in the past week.

As of Thursday, there were 7,423 lab-confirmed infections, up by nine from a day earlier.

On Wednesday, there were four patients in hospital, none of them in intensive care. The number of deaths has held steady at 329. These latter numbers will be updated on Friday.

30.7 13:41 Majority of teleworkers glad to return to physical workplaces

As of the beginning of August, the government is lifting its recommendation of remote work for as many employees as possible.

According to an Yle survey published on Thursday, nearly 60 percent of telecommuters say they are happy to return to their physical workplaces and considered that the coronavirus situation has improved. However 23 percent said they were worried about returning to brick-and-mortar workplaces due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Read more here.

29.7 20:32 Coronavirus testing to begin at Finland's ports

Finland will begin testing passengers arriving at the country's airports and seaports in the coming days.

The new measure is being cooperatively introduced by the City of Vantaa, Finland’s healthcare authorities -- the Ministry for Social Affairs and Health, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS) -- and Finnish airports operator Finavia.

Read more on this story here.

29.7 18:23 Lifting of coronavirus restrictions leads to spike in summer flu

The rise in the number of summer flu infections in Finland over recent weeks has been partially attributed to the easing of coronavirus restrictions, which has in turn led to an increase in social interactions.

29.7 16:39 Coronavirus tracing success varies by region

There are large regional differences in how successful authorities can trace coronavirus infections in Finland. In the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS), fewer than half of those infected can tell where they became infected. Meanwhile in Lapland, almost all of the coronavirus infections detected in the region can be traced back to their origin.

There is more on this story here.

29.7 15:12 Ten new cases reported in Finland

The National Institute for Health and Welfare, the THL on Wednesday reported 10 new new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed infections up to 7,414.

29.7 13:17 Cities plan for locally-targeted restrictions

City officials are examining measures that could used on a local level to deal with a resurgence of the coronavirus. The idea is that individual cities, or even just neighbourhoods in those cities could be targeted, rather than imposing wide-sweeping restrictions on entire regions.

Read previous coronavirus updates here.

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