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Coronavirus latest: New rules for Uusimaa shops and gyms, Finland sees 590 new cases on Wednesday

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

Hoitaja ojentaa koronatestipuikkoa.
Health care worker administering coronavirus test, file photo. Image: Mari Kahila / Yle
  • 55,122 lab-confirmed infections as of Wednesday 24.2 (up by 590 since Tuesday)
  • 737 deaths attributed to coronavirus as of Wednesday 24.2 (up by 3 since Tuesday)
  • 193 people in hospital, 35 of them in intensive care as of Wednesday 24.2
  • 302,342 people (5.47% of the population) had received at least one vaccination dose as of 24.2
  • THL reports on Covid-related fatalities and hospital patient statistics on weekdays

24.2 20:33 Government negotiations still ongoing

Government discussions over the introduction of new measures aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus are still ongoing, with an announcement expected later on Wednesday night.

24.2 18:57 Alcohol sales in bars, restaurants down by 40% in 2020

Alcohol sales in licensed premises fell by 40 percent last year compared to 2019 due to the effects of coronavirus restrictions on the hospitality industry, according to a report released by supervisory authority Valvira.

Read more on this story here.

24.2 17:22 Government meets to discuss move to 'Tier 2'

Government ministers are meeting at the House of the Estates in Helsinki on Wednesday evening to discuss the introduction of new measures aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus. According to Yle sources, it is expected that the government will decide to move to 'Tier 2' of the country's hybrid epidemic strategy in at least some parts of the country.

Finland is currently at tier one on the three-tier scale. Moving to tier two would mean that the recommendations and guidelines for the 'community transmission' phase would be introduced in order to achieve a strong, rapid reduction in contacts.

24.2 15:58 New distancing rules for Uusimaa region shops, gyms

Guidelines aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus are set to be tightened in the Uusimaa region, which has seen the country’s highest number of new infections.

Starting from Thursday 25 February, businesses such as shops and gyms that serve more than 10 customers at any one time must ensure that people keep a safety distance of more than two metres from each other.

Read more here.

24.2 13:04 Finland reports 590 new cases

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported 590 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of infections since the beginning of the pandemic to 55,122.

The highest number of new cases were once again detected in the Helsinki University hospital district (HUS), with 383 infections.

As of Wednesday, Finland has recorded 737 deaths linked to the virus.

24.2 11:10 'Third wave' of pandemic incoming, expert says

Professor of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Matti Reinikainen is calling for stricter limits on social contact in the fight against rising numbers of coronavirus cases nationwide.

"When the number of coronavirus cases rises, a couple of weeks later so too does demand for hospital and intensive care," Reinikainen told Yle.

Reinikainen joins a growing number of medical professionals calling for action.

"It appears that a third wave may be on the way," he said.

Read more here.

24.2 9:05 Papers: Rising case numbers slow contact tracing

Wednesday morning's paper review featured a story from Iltalehti which covered the situation facing coronavirus contact tracers in Uusimaa, where it can now take authorities two to four days to track down people who've been exposed to the virus.

It's partly due to a rise in infections taking place outside of immediate family or social circles, THL's Veli-Matti Ulander told the tabloid.

Elsewhere, Helsingin Sanomat compared the situation in the HUS hospital district to that in other EU cities and regions, with mixed results.

You can read more about these stories here.

23.2 20:13 Government agrees no singing, no dancing Covid policy

Finland's government parties have agreed on a new restriction that would ban singing and dancing inside licensed premises, Yle understands.

Read more on this story here.

23.2 19:36 Data reveals winter holidaymakers not deterred

According to mobile phone and traffic data, Finland's deteriorating coronavirus situation does not appear to have affected the travel plans of winter holidaymakers as there were as many--or even more--people travelling domestically this week compared to the same period last year.

Read more here.

23.2 18:26 ICU patients transferred out of Helsinki as HUS feels strain

Helsinki hospitals have begun transferring patients to hospitals in other parts of Finland due to an increased need for intensive care beds, as the number of Covid-19 cases picks up in the capital region.

Read more on this story here.

23.2 18:09 Government mulls move to tier two

The leaders of the government's coalition parties will meet on Tuesday evening to discuss the worsening coronavirus situation in Finland. According to Yle sources, the Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare (THL) has proposed that restrictions in the regions of Satakunta and Uusimaa could move to 'tier two' on a "limited" basis in order to curb the spread.

Restrictions in the rest of the country would remain unchanged.

However, Yle understands there are concerns among the government parties that may not be enough to control the recent uptick in infections, especially the more contagious virus variants.

23.2 14:32 HUS offers free Covid test certificates

Helsinki University Hospital District (HUS) has launched the koronatietoni.fi (external link) service, which allows patients to download an English-language, free-of-charge certificate confirming a negative coronavirus test.

Read more on this story here.

23.2 13:05 THL reports 400 new cases on Tuesday

Health authority THL reported 400 new confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country over the past day on Tuesday.

Slightly more than half of those cases were seen in the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital district.

23.2 9:25 Paper: UK variant now most common in Helsinki region

Yle News' newspaper roundup on Tuesday found a story in Helsingin Sanomat that reported the British coronavirus variant was being found in about 75 percent of new cases in the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District.

In other Covid news, nurses told the Satakunnan Kansa newspaper that the epidemic prompted weight gain among children.

Read more about these and other stories here.

22.2 17:04 Finland's travel sector took €7bn hit in 2020

According to the Economic Affairs and Employment ministry, the coronavirus pandemic caused a more-than-40-percent drop in travel spending in Finland.

The ministry said that tourists, both foreign and domestic, spent 9.3 billion euros in Finland last year, or nearly seven billion euros less than holidaymakers spent in the Nordic country in 2019.

More on this story here.

22.2 15:45 Under pressure lorry drivers breaking the law

Police monitoring lorry drivers' compliance with rules on driving and resting times have found evidence that many are breaking the law.

During a one-week period in February, police found that 376 drivers out of a total of 2,400 stopped were either driving for too long or not taking enough breaks.

Requirements on rest periods for lorry drivers were eased from March to May last year, lowering the minimum rest period required by law. Transportation company CEO Teija Pöytälaakso said that while the pandemic had limited activity in many sectors, it had stimulated extra demand in online shopping and food delivery.

Read the full story here.

22.2 15:30 THL corrects reported number of vaccinated people

As of Monday 22 February, 282,730 people (5.1 percent of Finland's population), have received at least one coronavirus vaccine dose.

The figure is lower than was announced on Sunday due to a technical error at THL, which caused some of the vaccine data to be reported twice. The problem has now been fixed.

22.2 14:05 Holiday spa outbreak closes Lappeenranta campuses

A coronavirus outbreak traced to a spa has led to the closure of two university and college campuses in Lappeenranta.

In-person teaching has been halted at LUT University and LAB University of Applied Science's Skinnarila campuses after a group of 10 students visiting the Holiday Club Saimaa spa was exposed to coronavirus on 10 February.

"Tens of cases of the coronavirus disease have been confirmed among students from LAB's and LUT's Skinnarila campus," LUT University said in a statement.

Students' access keys to the campus have been deactivated until 7 March, the university said.

22.2 11:54 Finland sees 390 new cases on Monday

Health authority THL reported 390 new confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country over the past day on Monday.

Again, the majority of new cases were seen in the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital district, where 234 infections were detected. Meanwhile there were 29 new cases in the region of Southwest Finland and 21 cases in the western region of Satakunta.

22.2 11:43 Nearly 800 Rauma shipyard workers in quarantine

Nearly 800 workers at Rauma shipyard have been ordered to quarantine following a major coronavirus outbreak at the facility, according to officials in the west coast town.

The town's chief physician said that around 800 of the yard's 1,000 workers were non-Finnish speakers and that efforts to minimise the spread of coronavirus had been hampered by language barriers and cultural differences, as well as the employees' living conditions.

Read the story here.

22.2 9:25 How could Finland's new disease laws affect you?

Yle News' newspaper review found daily tabloid Iltalehti's summary of what the newly-amended Communicable Diseases Act could mean for businesses in your area.

Read the whole review here.

Blog continues after photo.

Koronarokotuspaikka Lohjan Tennari-urheiluhallissa.
A vaccination centre in Lohja in western Uusimaa. Image: Petteri Bülow / Yle

21.2 17:30 Helsinki region medical director calls for tighter restrictions

HUS medical director Markku Mäkijärvi on Sunday said new curbs should be targeted at bars and restaurants. He noted that the country's coronavirus situation had deteriorated in the past few weeks, as nearly half of new infections are now caused by a mutated form of the virus.

"The rapid worsening of the coronavirus situation and the forthcoming three-week winter holiday period necessitate action," he said.

More here.

21.2 16:45 PM slams return to contact teaching in capital

Prime Minister Sanna Marin on Sunday said returning to upper secondary contact teaching in the capital area was a mistake.

"I'm worried about the situation. Some areas, like the capital region have opted to loosen restrictions against the advice of public health officials and government recommendations," she said of the capital region's plans to shift upper secondary education to partial contact learning from the beginning of March.

The PM said that while she empathised with young people, the coronavirus situation in the country had worsened while a mutated form of the virus was spreading in the Helsinki metropolitan area.

More on this story here.

21.2 13.15 Some 288,000 receive jab

Finland on Sunday reported that 5.21 percent of the population, 287,998 individuals, had so far received one coronavirus vaccine dose.

The highest proportion of vaccine recipients are in the over-80 age group, of whom about 39 percent have received the first dose.

21.2 13:10 Satakunta urges residents to limit contacts to household members

Health officials in the southwestern region of Satakunta are urging residents to limit contacts to close family members over the next three weeks.

This week the region entered an epidemic 'acceleration phase'. Officials said the situation was the most serious in the city of Rauma, where 230 out of 1,000 dock workers recently tested positive for the virus.

21.2 12:12 Finland reports 457 new infections

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare reported 457 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Sunday, bringing the total number of infections since the beginning of the pandemic to 53,742.

As of Friday, Finland had recorded 726 deaths linked to the virus.

20.2 11:53 5% of population vaccinated

More than 276,000 people have so far received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine in Finland, which amounts to about 5 percent of the population of the country.

The highest percentage of vaccine recipients are in the over-80 age group, of whom about 37 percent have so far received the first dose of the vaccine.

20.2 11:53 Finland reports 632 new cases

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare reported 632 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Saturday, bringing the total number of infections since the beginning of the pandemic to 53,285.

19.2 19:45 Estonian PM urges Finland to ease travel restrictions

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas called on the Finnish government to ease restrictions prohibiting Estonian workers from travelling to Finland during an official state visit on Friday.

Read more on this story here.

19.2 19:03 Ski trips still on, despite THL warning

Ski holiday makers from the south of Finland are keeping their plans to travel to Lapland, despite recommendations from both the health agency THL and the Lapland hospital district for people in Uusimaa to stay at home.

There is more on this story here.

19.2 16:50 Parliament amends disease law to simplify business closures

Parliament has approved changes to the Communicable Diseases Act which will make it easier to close privately-owned businesses and test passengers arriving in Finland for coronavirus.

Read more on this story here.

19.2 14:47 Public gatherings in Uusimaa limited to 6 people

The Regional State Administrative Agency (Avi) of Southern Finland have announced that public gatherings and. general meetings in the Uusimaa region should be limited to a maximum of six people.

According to a press release, Avi said the decision was based on the deteriorating epidemic situation in the region and will be valid from Monday 22 February until 14 March.

19.2 12:38 Update: Shipbuilding disrupted by Rauma yard's Covid outbreak

The shipyard in Rauma was shut down on Friday after seeing more than 100 confirmed Covid cases, with many other workers quarantined. Testing of the facility's employees continued on Friday.

Construction of the Aurora Botnia ship, which is slated to ply the Vaasa-Umeå route, may well be delayed. Read our story here.

19.2 12:04 Finland sees 444 new cases on Friday

The THL reported 444 new confirmed coronavirus infections across the country on Friday.

The majority of those cases, 241, were detected in the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital district. Meanwhile, the region of Satakunta reported 63 cases while Southwest Finland confirmed 57 cases.

19.2 10:35 Disputes over restrictions

On Thursday THL recommended that bars in Uusimaa be closed for a month, and people avoid travelling outside the region — an announcement made the week before the schools' half-term skiing holiday.

A short time later, the region's co-ordination group announced that it would re-start contact teaching for vocational and upper secondary level pupils (that is, those aged 16-19) in March.

Read more about the overnight news in Friday's newspaper roundup.

Previous updates can be read here.

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