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Finland's police could close parks to ensure a physically-distant May Day

Finland’s government is planning a ‘virtual Vappu’.

Ihmisiä Turun Taidemuseonmäellä vappuaattona 2019.
These park-based Vappu celebrations won't be seen in Finland this year. Image: Sara Silvennoinen / Yle

Finland’s police and municipalities could be ordered to close city parks to prevent large gatherings over the May Day holiday.

Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo said on Thursday that we still can’t return to a ‘normal’ life, as coronavirus remains present in Finland and a vaccine is some way off.

"Physical distance still has to be kept," said Ohisalo. "So now it is a different kind of vappu."

At the May Day (or Vappu) festival large groups of Finns traditionally gather to consume alcohol at picnics while wearing their high school graduation hats.

Ohisalo said police could fence off parks to prevent that kind of gathering this year, with mass gatherings banned until at least August.

"We are living in a state of emergency," said Ohisalo. "In the most extreme situations police can disperse gatherings to maintain order and public safety."

In extreme cases, police are able to fine the most enthusiastic revellers.

Ohisalo said that the government, the interior ministry and the National Police Board are planning a ‘virtual Vappu’ campaign to persuade people to stay home while maintaining some social contact with others.

The city of Helsinki has already announced it will replace the traditional crowning of the Havis Amanda statue with an online event.

Student organisations nationwide have also said they will arrange remote Vappu celebrations, with some also hoping to hold a May Day event later in the year.

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