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Finland puts €8.9m into coronavirus readiness, opposition questions delay

Finland has sufficient protective gear for healthcare professionals, according to the government. 

Valtiovarainministeri Katri Kulmuni, perhe- ja peruspalveluministeri Krista Kiuru, pääministeri Sanna Marin ja sosiaali- ja terveysministeri Aino-Kaisa Pekonen hallituksen tiedotustilaisuudessa koronavirustilannearviosta.
Minister of Finance Katri Kulmuni, Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru, Prime Minister Sanna Marin and Minister of Social Affairs and Health Aino-Kaisa Pekonen at the press conference on Thursday. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

Finland is establishing a new coordination group to fight the novel coronavirus outbreak and putting an initial 8.9 million euros into preparations for containing the virus, ministers said at a press conference on Thursday afternoon.

The group will be composed of officials from the relevant ministries and experts from the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

Prime Minister Sanna Marin said that the government was ready to spend more if necessary, and wanted to be transparent about plans for coping with the virus.

"Rumours and false information have been flying around, so we want to stick to as open a communication policy as possible," said the premier.

Health Minister Aino-Kaisa Pekonen said that Finland was well-prepared for the arrival of possible Covid 19 infections.

"At present in Finland there is no epidemic, although we have had infections," said Pekonen. "The risk of infection in Finland is small. At this moment we are focused on preventing an epidemic and limiting it nationally and also internationally."

People should "not overreact"

The health ministry's highest ranking official, Kirsi Varhila, told journalists that protective equipment for healthcare workers was available across the country, and that stock levels were sufficient to 'supply 400,000 healthcare professionals'.

Supplies are also being sought from other sources, including the National Emergency Supply Agency.

National Coalition MP and chair of the party's parliamentary group Kai Mykkänen, meanwhile, said people shouldn't 'overreact' to the threat from coronavirus.

Anu Vehviläinen, Centre Party MP and chair of parliament’s healthcare committee, also sounded a note of reassurance and noted that the seasonal flu poses more of a threat to most people.

Her committee heard from public health experts earlier on Thursday.

"It is quite improbable that there’s a risk of getting sick [from coronavirus]," said Vehviläinen. "The Finnish healthcare system is very well-prepared."

MP Arja Juvonen, speaking on behalf of the main opposition Finns Party, accused the cabinet of being slow to provide information about the situation.

"The Marin government has just started providing information about the corona virus today, even though the virus has been present in Finland since January. This is a serious virus infection, the extent of which we cannot yet determine," Juvonen said.

"I sent a written question to the minister about preparations for the corona virus in January, but the answer was vague. As a nurse, I wondered whether the government had any concept of the seriousness of the situation."

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