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Finland urges over 70s to stay indoors

Government minister says it is the responsibility of every person in Finland to avoid unnecessary social contact.

 Krista Kiuru, Sanna Marin ja Aino-Kaisa Pekonen
Minister for Basic Services and Health Krista Kiuru, Prime Minister Sanna Marin ja Minister for Social Affairs and Health Aino-Kaisa Pekonen at the press conference on Thursday. Image: Petteri Sopanen / Yle

Finland's government has urged people aged over 70 to avoid unnecessary social contact, and said it will publish guidelines for the elderly on how they should act during the coronavirus pandemic.

At a press conference on Thursday ministers announced that an information leaflet giving guidance will be posted to all homes in Finland next week. Hospital visits are to be restricted and children were urged not to play in groups in an effort to promote social distancing policies that could slow the progress of Finland's epidemic.

The government is implementing a ban on visits to hospitals and care homes, Minister for Basic Services and Health Krista Kiuru announced at a press conference on the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday. The move aims to minimize the risk of older people becoming infected with novel coronavirus.

It is now the responsibility of every person in Finland to watch the way they act around others, Minister for Social Affairs and Health Aino-Kaisa Pekonen added, as she reminded Finns that people of all ages can catch and transmit the virus.

The minister also warned against stockpiling medicine, as that could cause problems in the supply chain.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin said that although movement was not yet restricted under the emergency legislation, people should think twice before going to summer cottages.

One reason is that health systems in smaller towns have less capacity so may get overloaded if people go there from out of town. Another is that people moving around the country may spread the virus, according to Marin.

In response to a question from the press, Marin advised that children should not gather in groups to play together. Even though gatherings under ten people are permitted, social interaction should be avoided if possible, the PM said.

THL: True infection figure "probably higher"

Finland has tested more than 3,000 people for coronavirus, but testing capacity is limited and testing is focused on people needing hospital care and frontline healthcare workers, said Mika Salminen of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

Finland has the capacity to test 1,500 people each day, and on Wednesday the country tested some 1,100 people for the virus.

Finland currently has 359 confirmed coronavirus cases, according to THL’s latest figures. The number of actual cases in the community is probably higher, as many cases are mild, Salminen added.

On Wednesday evening, Marin appeared on Yle’s A-Studio programme and reassured older people they could still go to the shop if necessary.

"Of course older people can go to the shop and the pharmacy if they have no choice. Unfortunately, these people are one of the risk groups and therefore the government recommends that people avoid close contacts with others to protect their own health," Marin said.

She added that if people do not take action to limit their close contacts with others, the government would consider bringing in stricter rules.

"If people don’t follow the guidelines then we can take stricter measures, with parliament’s consent," said the PM.

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