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Finland's education minister: Stay home if you're unwell

Three additional novel coronavirus cases were confirmed in Central Finland on Monday afternoon.

Li Andersson Opetusministeriössä.
Finland's Minister of Education, Li Andersson (Aug. 2019 file photo). Image: Mårten Lampén / Yle

Finland's Minister of Education, Li Andersson, has urged people to stay home from daycare, school or work if they are suffering from flu symptoms.

Andersson made her comments on Monday during a visit to a school and daycare centre in Akaa, a town in the southern region of Pirkanmaa - as the total number of people infected by novel coronavirus in Finland reached 33.

The latest three cases were announced by Central Finland Central Hospital on Monday afternoon and were the first confirmed cases in the region. Two of the patients were infected while in Finland while the third had recently traveled abroad to an area with high infection rates. All of the patients have been ordered to be quarantined at home.

Novel coronavirus, which has caused more than 3,600 deaths worldwide, had not claimed any lives in Finland as of early Monday evening.

"That also goes for teachers - if you have flu symptoms, you shouldn't go to school or work," Andersson said.

Staying home during illness and maintaining good hand hygiene are the two main strategies recommended to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus, according to many experts, including the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

As of Monday a total around 700 pupils and school staff in various parts of the country had been ordered to stay away from their schools due to the virus outbreak.

More student trips could be cancelled

Andersson said the situation for students was regrettable, but underscored that municipalities are compelled to comply with the regulation of health authorities and to keep emergency plans up-to-date. The minister said that government is continually monitoring the situation.

Officials the city of Tampere said they may cancel student trips scheduled this spring and are expected to make a decision about whether to go ahead with planned field trips on Tuesday.

The city's director of upper secondary education, Jorma Suonio, said that - for example - a planned trip by students from the city's Classical High School to the Czech Republic in April could be postponed or cancelled outright.

City of Helsinki officials already decided that city schools would not take scheduled trips abroad.

Edited at 5:31pm 9 March, 2020 to reflect that the number of novel coronavirus cases across Finland on Monday evening was 33.

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