Finland is not yet adjusting national coronavirus restrictions but is updating its testing and infection tracing strategy, members of Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) government announced on Monday.
At a joint press conference, Family Affairs and Social Services Minister Krista Kiuru (SDP) said that recommendations regarding the use of face mask and distance working remain in place.
Prime Minister Marin said there is a risk the epidemic could accelerate in Finland at a rapid pace, noting that the new virus strains first seen in the UK and South Africa have spread at rates of 50 to 75 percent faster than the earlier form of the virus.
Marin urged members of the public to seek coronavirus tests, even over to "the slightest of symptoms."
Family Affairs and Social Services Minister Krista Kiuru (SDP) said the winter and spring will be challenging, adding that the virus variants are becoming more common.
"The whole country is facing more difficult times. We have had it easier in Finland but we must be prepared for a deterioration in the situation. We reacted quickly in the fight against the threat of the new variant," Kiuru said, noting that Finland implemented new border entry restrictions last week, but that the country needs to prepare itself more effectively.
Strategy plans: Three levels
Kiuru described the response levels in which more restrictions would be implemented, if such action was necessary.
Finland remained at the first coronavirus response level on Monday.
"Going to 'level two' in the fight against the virus would require that the country would be in the acceleration phase, and that not enough people have been vaccinated," Kiuru said, adding that if measures were tightened, it would mean further limiting the maximum size of gatherings as well as implementing restrictions on schools and possibly kids' hobbies.
Restrictions would be much tighter in a 'level three' scenario, Kiuru said, including ones regarding domestic travel and would also involve the reinstatement of the Emergency Powers Act. Those measures would be taken if hospitals became too congested, she explained.
PM Marin said that inter-city travel restrictions within Finland are conceivable in the future, but noted that such decisions first need parliamentary approval.
Flight ban lifted
Mika Salminen, director of health security at the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), was asked by a reporter why Finland lifted its ban on flights from the UK, South Africa and Ireland.
"Legally one can only ban [international transportation] if there are no other options available. During the flight ban we set up measures at airports. Now we are testing [passengers] and quarantining them. We are studying and identifying the virus variants. Proof of negative tests need to be presented [by passengers]," Salminen said.
Marin noted that the government will examine the coronavirus situation on Wednesday, for example how employer-based health care operations are handling vaccinations.
"But as we know, the vaccine producers have had delivery problems. Timetables are uncertain. But municipalities are well prepared for mass vaccinations," Marin said.