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Finnish gov't calls off specific coronavirus recommendations for over-70 set

The government also said its recommendations on remote working will end on 1 August.

Sosiaali- ja terveysministeri Aino-Kaisa Pekonen ja perhe- ja peruspalveluministeri Krista Kiuru hallituksen tiedotustilaisuudessa valtioneuvoston linnassa Helsingissä 23. kesäkuuta 2020.
Minister of Social Affairs and Health Aino-Kaisa Pekonen (on left) and Minister for Basic Services and Health Krista Kiuru at a government press conference in Helsinki on 23 June, 2020. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

The government said that due to an improvement in Finland's coronavirus infection rate, it was no longer issuing special recommendations for residents over the age of 70.

At a press conference early Tuesday evening, Minister for Basic Services and Health, Krista Kiuru, said risk assessments were central to decision making regarding the restrictions which were put in place during the crisis over the spring.

Tuesday's announcement was the second time that restrictions on the over-70 set were eased. Before government lightened those restrictions last month, seniors had been advised to avoid leaving their homes if at all possible.

Going forward, general recommendations from the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) apply to all age groups, meaning that people should continue practicing good cough and sneezing hygiene, good hand hygiene and other preventative measures.

Finland does not have an official policy regarding the use of face masks in public places.

Grandkid hugs still off limits?

When asked whether grandparents should dare to hug their grandchildren, Kiuru said it was a personal decision.

"It would be a good idea to follow all existing guidelines [from THL]," Kiuru told reporters.

"When it comes to your own family members, it's up to you to decide if you want to hug them," she said.

Remote working recommendations end in August

Meanwhile, Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Aino-Kaisa Pekonen, said government's recommendations regarding remote working will end on 1 August.

Pekonen said the government wants employers to be flexible and able to combine remote working situations with on-site arrangements.

Pekonen noted that 60 percent of Finland's employees worked remotely during the crisis, adding that the country had done a good job following the recommendations.

Travel restrictions - details coming

Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo said that the cabinet had reached new criteria for cross-border travel, but added the government was being extremely cautious about the situation.

On 13 July restrictions will be lifted on travel to EU and Schengen Area countries with fewer than eight new confirmed coronavirus infections per 100,000 citizens over the course of 14 days. Also on 13 July, current quarantine recommendations for travellers coming from approved countries will be lifted.

However, a comprehensive list of such countries is still incomplete. The government is scheduled to issue an update in that regard on 10 July.

The countries that fulfill the government's travel criteria include Greece, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Croatia and Ireland.

Last week the government lifted restrictions on travel between the Baltic countries as well as Norway, Denmark and Iceland - meaning that arriving passengers from those nations are not compelled to follow two-week quarantine recommendations.

However, due to continued high infection rates, Sweden was not included on that list.

Infection rate criteria

Ohisalo said on Tuesday that Sweden has seen 118 new coronavirus infections per 100,000 residents over the course of two weeks, noting that the ratio in Finland was 3.2 infections per 100,000 residents.

While Ohisalo was not specific in her answer when asked whether the government's strict criteria will continue to affect Sweden, she didn't rule it out, saying the government is looking into whether regional exceptions can be made.

Regarding Sweden, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said he hopes it will soon be possible to travel between Finland and its western neighbour. Speaking in Swedish, he spoke of the importance of relations between the two Nordic countries.

Haavisto said he spoke with his Swedish counterpart Ann Linde, in an "open dialogue" about the situation.

Haavisto said that individuals should avoid travelling to countries that the government does not recommend. He noted that the World Health Organization (WHO) has noted the pandemic continues to escalate in South American and the United States, adding that there remains a risk of a second wave of the epidemic.

Haavisto also said if people do arrive from countries not on Finland's list, traveller recommendations for 14-day quarantines will still be in effect.

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