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Finland urges people to work from home until 2021 as Covid cases spike

The government wants local authorities to exercise their decision-making power to fight the epidemic.

Opetusministeri Li Andersson, tiede- ja kulttuuriministeri Annika Saarikko ja perhe- ja peruspalveluministeri Krista Kiuru hallituksen tiedotustilaisuussa Helsingissä 15. lokakuuta 2020.
From left: Minister of Education Li Andersson, Minister of Science and Culture Annika Saarikko and Minister for Basic Services and Health Krista Kiuru at a press conference on Thursday. Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva

Finland is recommending people work from home if possible until at least the end of the year, among a host of measures unveiled on Thursday that are aimed at curbing the further spread of coronavirus.

Minister for Basic Services and Health Krista Kiuru (SDP) said Finland's epidemic situation is serious, noting the number of new Covid cases is on the rise. Hospital admissions have doubled over the past two weeks, according to a report issued earlier in the day.

The government's updated strategy aims to make it easier for local and national authorities to intervene quickly and bring in stricter measures as Covid infection rates change.

Minister of Science and Culture Annika Saarikko (Cen) said nationwide recommendations regarding remote working remain valid until further notice, adding that those guidelines will be reviewed at the end of the year.

This week's podcast discussed the Covid pandemic, face masks, votes of confidence and more. You can listen to the full podcast via the embedded player here or via Yle Areena, Spotify, Apple Podcasts or your usual podcast player using the RSS feed.

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Audio: Yle News

Ban on events in 'spreading' regions

The government's other new measures include banning public events in regions that are in the acceleration phase of the epidemic. Additionally, public facilities in those regions are expected to consider carefully how they can limit customer numbers.

Libraries should be kept open if possible, according to Culture Minister Saarikko.

Gatherings will be capped to 10 people in regions where the infection situation is in a 'spreading phase', which is the highest stage of alert in the government's three-phase epidemic plan.

Only Pohjanmaa, the region around Vaasa on the west coast, is currently regarded as in a 'spreading phase'.

The government said on Thursday that activities and hobbies for adults, like team sports, should be limited by authorities in regions in the acceleration phase to ensure that people can avoid close contacts. On the other hand, hobbies and activities for children and young people will not be as strictly limited.

School's not out

Education minister Li Andersson said that distance learning recommendations for schools will be based on regional circumstances, with remote learning regarded as a last resort.

"But if necessary, legislation provides the opportunity to switch to other teaching arrangements," Andersson said.

The minister emphasised the importance that students follow guidelines on good hand hygiene, social distancing and the use of masks in schools.

The moves announced on Thursday follow restrictions on opening times brought in last week and expanded mask recommendations in the Helsinki region.

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