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Finland prepares for a virtual Vappu

Local authorities are introducing a variety of measures to encourage people to party at home.

Havis Amanda vaneriaidan ympäröimänä vappuna 2020.
The Havis Amanda statue in the centre of Helsinki is now surrounded by a two metre high plywood fence. Image: Matti Myller / Yle

May Day in Finland, or Vappu in Finnish, is usually a time for park picnics, outdoor concerts and community carnivals. This year, however, celebrations will be very different as the ongoing epidemic has led to Finland clamping down on mass gatherings.

In Helsinki, city officials have introduced a number of measures aimed at keeping people at home. There will be no public toilets available in the traditional picnic area of Kaivopuisto, no trade will be permitted to take place in market squares, and public transport will not run any extra services.

On Monday, the Havis Amanda, or Manta, statue in the centre of Helsinki was fenced off. The statue is the annual centrepiece for May Day celebrations in the city, culminating in an elaborate ceremony where university students place a cap on the statue’s head.

The city of Helsinki’s Head of Marketing, Sanna Forsström, announced the building of the two metre plywood fence around the statue last week, in order to prevent the gathering of revellers, and revealed that the statue would also be guarded on both April 30 (Vappu Eve) and May 1.

"We hope of course that people will not meet in the downtown area or at the Manta statue, and that people will comply with these restrictions," Forsström said.

Story continues after photo.

Koronaepidemian takia vapun 2020 alta aidattu Havis Amanda.
The statue will also be guarded over the coming days. Image: Matti Myller / Yle

Helsinki mayor Jan Vapaavuori also urged people to behave responsibly and remember the government guidelines on preventing the spread of novel coronavirus.

"Stay at home to avoid the spread of infections," Vapaavuori said. "Nothing will be happening in physical Helsinki. But instead of a traditional May Day, the best virtual May Day in the world will be celebrated."

The city has planned a number of virtual events to encourage people to move their celebrations online, including a live-streamed capping of the Havis Amanda statue at 5.45pm on April 30, followed by a virtual concert by Finnish rap duo JVG beginning at 7pm.

Although the city is actively encouraging people to stay at home, Helsinki police are still preparing to patrol the city and will disperse crowds and monitor alcohol consumption over the course of the two days.

"Police will intervene"

Police elsewhere in Finland are also making preparations for an exceptional May Day. In the western Finland region of Ostrobothnia, local police commissioner Vesa Ojanperä told Yle that there will be extra resources deployed over the next few days to ensure people comply with restrictions.

"The police will intervene if gatherings cause a disturbance to public order, security or peace of mind," Ojanperä said, adding that police are especially concerned about people gathering for car rallies, another May Day tradition in certain parts of Finland.

In principle, driving a car is permitted under the current coronavirus restrictions, but police may intervene in organised events aimed at gathering car enthusiasts together. In recent weekends, car rallies in cities such as Vaasa and Seinäjoki have caused disruption and led to at least two arrests.

"In the first instance, police will give advice and recommendations, but if that is not enough, then other measures will have to be taken. This might meant fines, but can also mean arrests, as happened last weekend," Ojanperä said.

Cloudy with a chance of rain

One of the biggest factors that will compel people to stay at home will be the weather, and this year it is likely to be overcast and cold with rain in some areas, according to Yle meteorologist Henri Nyman.

Story continues after photo.

Kuvassa on perjantain sääkartta.
The outlook for May Day in Finland. Image: Henri Nyman / Yle

"There is a risk of showers all over the country," Nyman warned, adding that there may also be snow showers in Lapland.

Temperatures across the country will range from between five to nine degrees Celsius in the west, two to seven degrees in the east and north, and five to seven degrees in the south.

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