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Coronavirus updates archive: 22 May - 31 May 2020

This archive contains Yle News' coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak in Finland from 22 May - 31 May 2020.

31.5 21:33 Finland resumes a semblance of normal life on Monday

On 1 June, Finland dismantles many restrictions on public life. Read our story on what will change here.

31.5 13:59 Finns tighten purse strings

A third of residents have become more careful with their spending since the coronavirus crisis began, according to a new poll by daily Helsingin Sanomat. Meri Obstbaum, head of forecasting at the Bank of Finland, said the poll’s results were significant, as consumer uncertainty could slow economic recovery. More on this story here.

31.5 12:25 Government may decide on foreign travel next week

Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said he wants the government to outline its position on foreign travel by Wednesday, 3 June. Haavisto said that at the moment he could only recommend residents plan for domestic travel this summer.

Haavisto said it was important for ferry companies and national carrier Finnair to understand when leisure travel could resume.

31.5 12:13 HUS braces for more Covid-19 patients

HUS says it's prepared to treat more Covid-19 patients after Finland's tentative return to normal life. Restaurants in Finland will once again welcome eat-in customers on Monday, 1 June, sporting events will go ahead and public gatherings will be expanded from ten to 50 people. Our story is here.

30.5 17:56 VR to begin selling face masks, hand sanitizer

Finland’s state railway firm, VR, said passengers will soon be able to buy masks onboard trains but will not be required to wear them. Earlier this month state-owned airline Finnair announced its crew and passengers would be expected to wear face coverings.

30.5 16:53 Finland's shutdown in pictures

What did it really look like in Finnish homes this spring? A group of 160 photographers around Finland pointed their cameras at their own surroundings to capture everyday life during the country's coronavirus epidemic. More on this story here.

29.5 16:36 Domestic holidays back on agenda

The government announced on Friday that it was immediately dismantling restrictions on domestic leisure travel, but urged people to comply with safety guidelines to contain the coronavirus epidemic.

In a statement issued Friday afternoon, Economic Affairs Minister Mika Lintilä said that the easing of restrictions applied specifically to domestic and not overseas leisure trips. Find out more here.

29.5 17:40 Ministry report: Masks provide little benefit

Research has shown that widespread use of face masks has little or no effect on reducing the spread of upper respiratory infections, according to a report presented by a government-appointed working group led by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (MSAH) on Friday. The report was commissioned by the government to determine if there were grounds to recommend the widespread use of masks to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus. Read more about the expert group's findings here.

29.5 16:39 Covid case detected at Espoo school, 25 quarantined

An individual from the Swedish-language Lagstad comprehensive school in Espoo was diagnosed with a coronavirus infection, resulting in the city ordering the individual along with more than two dozen others from the institution into quarantine, according to Svenska Yle.

Around 25 people from the school, including about 20 pupils and an unknown number of staff, were ordered to isolate themselves from others until early next month.

Health authorities do not suspect that other students and faculty at the school were exposed to the infected individual. Activities at the school have continued, and the students who were sent into quarantine were continuing distance learning.

29.5 16:40 Child welfare reports remain steady

The number of child welfare reports filed with child protection authorities did not increase when schools re-opened following about two months of distance learning, according to an Yle investigation.

Officials had previously expressed concern that a decline in welfare reports during the spring when children were learning at home meant that cases of neglect or abuse might have been overlooked. They speculated at the time that the reduced number of reports was due to the fact that in many cases, reports are filed by school or daycare officials. Read more here.

29.5 15:15 Russian resident in limbo in Finland

A man who became stuck at the Vaalimaa border station between Finland and Russia in mid-March, has now been stranded on the Finnish side of the border for over two months. The man had been living and working in Russia when he came to Finland on a single-entry visa, but as he is neither a Finnish nor Russian citizen he is unable to cross the border back into Russia. Read the full story here.

29.5 13:16 Finland officially in recession, statistics agency reports

Preliminary data released by Statistics Finland indicate that the Finnish economy has now entered a long-predicted recession, as exports fell by 7.4 percent and gross domestic product (GDP) was down 0.9 per cent in the first quarter of this year compared to the previous quarter.

Statistics Finland’s preliminary data found other factors that also suggested the onset of recession, including a drop in the volume of exports, which contracted by 7.4 percent from the previous quarter and by 8.5 percent year-on-year. Read more here.

29.5 9:20 Friday's papers: Estonia opens borders, Montenegro closed to Finns, warm weekend

As travel restrictions relax around Europe, our paper review finds that Finns will soon be welcome to visit Estonia, but not to Montenegro. There's also a good chance for warm weather this weekend. Read all about it.

28.5 21:12 What's in it for EU?

This week's podcast looks at the EU proposal for environmental taxes to fund a new continent-wide package of grants and loans to help the regions and sectors hardest hit by the crisis. Finland isn't yet sure how it will respond to the package, but past bailout deals have left their mark.

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.

Story continues after audio.

Audio: Yle News

28.5 19:15 Contract deal struck for nurses and other municipal workers

A collective bargaining agreement was finally approved on Thursday covering nurses, teachers and other crucial municipal employees, who have been working without a contract since last month. The unions and employers’ groups involved in the process approved a deal struck on Wednesday. Negotiations have been held by videoconference since the coronavirus pandemic hit Finland.

Nurses' unions had also pushed for a bonus for healthcare workers battling the pandemic, but that was left out of this agreement because financially-strapped local authorities simply do not have money to pay for it. Instead, the unions are calling on the government to fund the bonus.

For more details, read our article here.

28.5 13:43 Domestic leisure travel "strongly" discouraged

Public health officials stressed on Thursday that the current “strong recommendation” from government is for people not to travel for leisure in Finland. This could could spell trouble for a tourism industry already suffering from international travel restrictions. Read more here.

28.05 12:35 51 new coronavirus cases in Finland

Finland reported 51 new Covid-19 infections on Thursday, bringing the running total to 6,743, according to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. Some 2,500 cases have been logged in Helsinki.

28.5 11:05 Finland turns to virtual tourism due to pandemic

Finnish tourism destinations are turning to virtual tourism to get around travel restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic. The first virtual tourists from Japan are already set to visit the Savonlinna region in eastern Finland in June visiting from home via a video link and will harness the wonders of livestreams, 360-degree videos and photographs to enjoy their travel experiences. You can read more here.

28.5 09:16 Dailies: High ratings for government over crisis handling

Tabloid daily Iltalehti reports on a party approval survey in which over two-thirds (69%) of Finns say that the five-party coalition headed by Social Democratic PM Sanna Marin has done its job at least "rather well". Fewer than a quarter (24%) took the opposite position, saying that at best it has done "rather poorly". Read more about the poll and more in our newspaper roundup here.

27.5 21:00 Finland to push for more loans in EU bailout

The EU’s freshly-revealed recovery fund for coronavirus-ravaged states "was foreseeable" but placed too much emphasis on grant rather than loan funding, Finnish European Affairs Minister Tytti Tuppurainen said on Wednesday.

Tuppurainen was responding to the European Commission’s proposal for a 750-billion-euro stimulus fund, 500 million of which would be distributed in the form of grants, while 250 million would be offered as loans. Read the full story here.

27.5 19:30 Sweden seen as major source of Covid infections in west

Vaasa Central Hospital's infectious diseases chief physician Juha Salonen told Svenska Yle that people who tested positive for Covid-19 in Finland's western region of Ostrobothnia over the past month had been infected in Sweden. But the hospital district's medical director, Peter Nieminen, said it isn't that simple. Read more here.

27.5 18:50 Tuusula quarantines 16 pupils

Sixteen pupils and one teacher at Tuusula’s Kirkonkylä school have been quarantined after exposure to one student who tested positive for Covid-19. The infected child is said to be in good condition and is being cared for at home, the school said in a statement on Wednesday. The exposed persons are expected to remain in quarantine until 8 June.

27.5 18:20 Finland turns to reading during crisis

The coronavirus crisis has prompted Finns to turn to literature more than usual, according to the results of a recent survey by the Finnish Reading Centre. The survey results showed that 23 percent of about 1,000 respondents, half of them parents, said that they had been reading to their children more than usual during the epidemic. Many said that children themselves had requested their parents read aloud to them. Find out more about it here.

27.5 17:05 Finns take Covid-19 to Estonia

Ten people who travelled from Finland to Estonia on a business trip earlier this month were said to be infected with Covid-19, the disease caused by novel coronavirus, according to Estonian health authorities. Border restrictions between Finland and Estonia were partially dismantled on 14 May, when business and essential travel were permitted once more. Read the full story here.

27.5 14:19 Covid-19 an added concern as school year ends

The first weekend of summer school holidays is always one of the busiest for law enforcement nationwide. In addition to concerns about excessive drinking and drug use, this year police have a new worry - the danger of the spread of the novel coronavirus, especially if young people gather in large groups. Read more about how police are preparing for the weekend here.

27.5 12:19 Confirmed cases up by 64

The National Institute for Health and Welfare THL reported 64 newly confirmed novel coronavirus cases on Wednesday. This brings the total of lab-confirmed infections in Finland to 6,692.

27.5 12:07 Unemployed jobseeker figures almost double in April

There were just over 433,000 registered unemployed jobseekers in Finland in April, according to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. That marks an increase of just over 203,000 from the previous year, and a spike of 124,000 from the previous month. Read more here.

27.5 9:24 Taiwan's gift of 200k face masks arrive in Oulu

Wednesday's press review takes a look at a Kaleva story about Oulu University Hospital taking delivery of 200,000 surgical masks that were a gift to Finland from Taiwan. Meanwhile, Helsingin Sanomat reports on the start of the industrial production of hospital-quality surgical masks in Finland.

Read more about what the Finnish press covered on Wednesday here.

26.5 20:11 Helsinki's reserve Covid hospital to be dismantled

An emergency coronavirus reserve hospital set up in the underground car park of Helsinki's Meilahti Hospital will be dismantled in the next few days, the Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district (HUS) announced on Tuesday.

The district set up the reserve hospital as a trial at the beginning of this month, in preparation for the possibility of a sudden spike in coronavirus infections.

However, once dismantled, the temporary facility's infrastructure and medical equipment will be kept nearby, in order to quickly respond to an eventual second wave of the epidemic.

After the equipment is dismantled, the car park will be returned to its original use, according to the hospital.

26.5. 18:55 Death toll reaches 312

Four additional coronavirus-related fatalities were recorded on Tuesday, bringing the national death toll to 312, according to data from the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

The agency also reported that 95 people were hospitalised for Covid-19 infection on Tuesday, with 11 of those receiving intensive care. THL said Finland has now reached 120 confirmed coronavirus infections per 100,000 residents.

Approximately 5,000 people in Finland have already recovered from coronavirus infections, according to the agency.

26.5 17:16 THL releases coronavirus symptom heatmap

People who suspect they may have had Covid-19, or others who are just curious about how many in their community may have had the disease, can now check a coronavirus symptom map to get an idea of what the situation looks like in their area.

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) published the Symptom Map on its website on Tuesday. Read more here.

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.

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.

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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