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Friday's papers: Covid passport, economy exit, slippery roads

Morning papers report that a digital vaccine certificate could be introduced in Finland by May.

Seteleitä lompakossa.
Employers' groups say the government's exit strategy gives too little attention to reviving the national economy. Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle

The tabloid Iltalehti carries a review of an interview by Yle in which Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) stated that the government has been preparing the introduction of a digital coronavirus vaccine certificate for the past two months.

According to Kiuru, the Finnish government has been excited about the Covid passport system planned in Denmark, among other places. She described the certificate as possibly being a QR code that would be received by mobile phone that would be easy to display, if needed.

Iltalehti pointed out that while various terms have been used in public debate on the issue, Kiuru consistently used the phrase "rokotetodistus", that is "vaccination certificate".

The paper goes on to write that Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) said on Thursday that introducing a "vaccination passport" would not necessarily make sense in light of the timetable of the government's exit strategy.

"We assume that if sufficient deliveries of vaccine materialize, we will be able to vaccinate the entire adult population during the summer. From this point of view, creating a passport is not relevant. We also do not have legislation to ban those who have not been vaccinated from using services," said Marin.

More economic focus

The business and economic daily Kauppalehti reports that employers' groups say the government's exit strategy gives too little attention to reviving the national economy, describing it as an important first step, but no more.

Mika Kuismanen, who is Chief Economist at the Federation of Finnish Enterprises, pointed out to the paper that a significant number of companies will continue to face major financial problems for at least a year.

"Many restrictions will remain in place for a long time. Uncertainty affects consumption, and for example, events cannot be organized normally in the early summer. We still need a lot of different individual flexibility mechanisms, through which companies can, for example, spread out statutory payments over a longer period of time," said Kuismanen.

Jyri Häkämies, CEO of the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK), has previously stated that the subsidies provided by Finland to companies have been moderate in overall European comparisons.

Häkämies has stressed that a fourth government support package for companies must move ahead. Kuismanen agreed.

"Cost support package number four will definitely be coming. The need for aid is still great. I'm afraid this this is being overlooked in the excitement of the exit, ” Kuismanen told Kauppalehti.

Secretive emails

Jyväskylä's Keskisuomalainen carries a report by the Uutissuomalainen news group stating that the Prime Minister's Office has refused to make public email correspondence concerning a social media analysis published by Nato's Strategic Communications (StratCom) Centre of Excellence.

That report, published in March, said that the Finnish coalition government has been the subject of a constant campaign of hate speech on social media. It stated that the five ministers most affected are women and are the target of a massive, hostile attack that calls into question their values, decision-making and leadership qualities.

The Uutissuomalainen news group requested email exchanges between the Prime Minister's Office and StratCom for the period of 1 January 2019 to 18 March 2021.

The request was filed in the wake of speculation that Prime Minister's Office was involved in the StratCom Centre's investigation.

Jussi Toivanen, Chief Communications Specialist at Finnish Prime Minister's Office, denied to Uutissuomalainen that the office had "agreed on or placed an order for" the study. He told Uutissuomalainen that communication was originally carried out with the centre’s steering group on "another topic".

According to Toivanen, emails in question are "documents prepared for the internal work of the authorities” and “informal e-mail correspondence", which do not need to be archived, and are not subject to the Act on the Openness of Government Activities.

Tomi Voutilainen, Professor of Public Law at the University of Eastern Finland, told Uutissuomalainen that it is not possible to assess the legality of keeping the correspondence classified without actually seeing the content of the emails. He added though, that technological developments have made Act on the Openness of Government Activities outdated and that it is currently being revised.

Rethinking summer tyres

Tampere's Aamulehti is among the papers warning readers that the spring-like weather of recent days is set to change on Friday, and roads may be slippery and hazardous as snow, sleet and rain is forecast for large parts of the country.

Hannu Valta of the Finnish Meteorological Institute told the paper that drivers who have already switched over to summer tyres should consider alternative means of transport. If it is absolutely necessary to use one's own car in areas with slippery roads, Valta suggested paying very close attention to safe distancing in traffic, or to change back to winter tyres.

Sunny spring-like days interspersed by snowstorms, he pointed out, are typical of the first half of April in Finland. Significantly warmer weather previously in the forecast for next week now looks unlikely, and temperatures will probably stay in the 5C to 10C range.

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