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Decision on further Uusimaa border closure possible on Tuesday

The government must decide soon whether to extend the border shutdown.

Poliisi ja varusmiehet tarkistavat kulkulupia Turun moottoritiellä Lohjalla maanantaiaamuna.
Police and Defence Forces conscripts checking motorists' permits on the Turku motorway in Lohja. Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

Finland’s most populous region, Uusimaa, has been cordoned off from the rest of the country since 28 March. The restrictions on movement will remain in force until Sunday 19 April unless the government asks Parliament for an extension. To do so, it would have to prove that a continued closure is essential to protect people’s health and lives.

That decision will likely hinge on a memo on the coronavirus epidemic, currently under preparation at the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). It may be handed over to cabinet ministers on Monday, which is a national holiday.

Article continues after photo

Kirsi Varhila
Kirsi Varhila, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle

“We are aiming to provide a brief to ministers tomorrow,” Kirsi Varhila, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, told Yle on Sunday afternoon.

However in the evening Varhila said that the memo would probably not be released before Tuesday. The daily Helsingin Sanomat also reported that the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health plans to send the memo to ministers on Tuesday.

It will be up to the government to decide on publishing the white paper.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin told Yle last week that the border restrictions would probably be lifted next weekend, according to the original plan. She cited the amount of resources needed from authorities to maintain the blockade, among other issues.

Government sources also say that there were fears of a mass exodus from the capital region to the countryside for the four-day Easter holiday weekend, which ends on Monday.

If the cabinet decides to lengthen the closure, it would have to move quickly after receiving the memo. Consideration of the matter in Parliament would take at least two full working days. So if a decision is not made until Thursday, the timing could be tight to avoid a re-opening and then a rapid re-closure of the border, which would put a further strain on police and other officials.

Uusimaa is home to some 1.7 million people and includes three of Finland's four largest cities: Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa. No-one has been allowed in or out of the region without a strictly controlled, valid reason since 28 March.

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